S. Korea to calmly deal with delay of family reunions: unification minister

INCHEON/BUSAN, Sept. 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will calmly deal with North Korea's abrupt postponement of family reunions for people separated during the 1950-53 Korean War, the country's unification minister said Friday.

In a gathering hosted by the Incheon Business Forum in the port city west of Seoul, Ryoo Kihl-jae said the government was perplexed but not terribly surprised by Pyongyang's announcement.

"As we have done in the past, the government will react in a calm manner," he said.

The two Koreas had agreed to hold the family reunions event on Aug. 23 after it was formally proposed by President Park Geun-hye at her Liberation Day address.

The list of 196 people who could meet long-lost relatives were exchanged earlier this month and last minute preparations for the Sept. 25-30 event were underway when the communist country unilaterally postponed the gathering last Saturday, citing provocations by the South.

The event would have been the first such reunion in nearly three years.

The policymaker told entrepreneurs that the move by the North to break agreements should not be viewed as an unexpected event since the country has a long track record of not living up to promises.

He stressed Seoul will adhere to its current policy of building inter-Korean trust regardless of the latest developments, that includes providing humanitarian aid to the impoverished country.

The government announced earlier in the day that it will provide US$6.3 million in humanitarian aid to North Korean children through the U.N. Children's Fund.

"In the past, humanitarian aid may have been used as a bargaining chip, but the current policy stance is different," the senior official claimed.

In another meeting with students from Dong-a University in Busan, 453 kilometers southeast of the capital city, the official said that if the North wants to strive for economic growth and cooperation with South Korea, it needs to meet its obligations.

He said that while some headway has been made in cross-border relations that includes two summit meetings, it is premature to say that trust exists between the two countries.

"Seoul wants to send a message that it will abide by its past pledges and wants the North to do the same," Ryoo said, predicting that if Seoul shows consistency in its North Korean policy, bilateral confidence can be built up, even if this process takes time.

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