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Koreas to decide on lodgings for family reunions this week


SEOUL, Sept. 17 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea will seek to make a decision within the week on where to lodge people who plan to meet relatives they have not seen since the 1950-53 Korean War, an official source said Tuesday.

The unification ministry official said the North sent a message asking for the matter to be discussed when the South Korean advanced party arrives at the Mount Kumgang resort on Friday to make last-minute checks on preparations.

The 20-30 member team will join technicians and repair crews that have been working at the scenic report since early this month.

On Aug. 23, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to hold the reunions at the resort amid thawing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and following a landmark deal to reopen the shuttered inter-Korean factory park in Kaesong that had been closed since early April.

Despite making headway on other issues such as the exchanging of the names of the 196 people who are to attend the event set to take place on Sept. 25-30, the two sides have yet to agree on where visitors will stay.

Citing precedence, safety and convenience, South Korea insisted on using the Kumgangsan Hotel and the Mount Kumgang Hotel, but the North has offered the floating Kumgang Beach Hotel and the workers' dormitory for the Hyundai Asan Corp.

"The North has proposed holding the talks on accommodations when the advanced party arrives as officials will be able to check the facilities in person," said the ministry official, who declined to be identified.

He stressed that Seoul's insistence on lodgings reflected the old age and health concerns of people going to the reunions event. The source pointed out many people going to the family reunions are in their 80s and 90s, making it hard for them to stay at facilities offered by the North. These facilities he claimed were not used for some time and not built for older people.

"Seoul's stance on this is firm, and we expect the North to understand this," the official said.

The ministry official, meanwhile, said the North has remained silent on working-level talks aimed at restarting the Mount Kumgang tours that are scheduled to take place on Oct. 2. They have been suspended for the past five years.

"Pyongyang has neither accepted or rejected the Oct. 2 date for the talks so we are making preparations under the assumption that the meeting will take place," he said.

The tours that began in 1998 were stopped after a North Korean guard killed a South Korean tourist at the resort in July 2008.

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