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North Korea halts family reunions

| Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 8:42 p.m.
REUTERS
South Korean Cho Jang-geum, 81, who was visiting to apply for additional application for inter-Korean family reunions, weeps at an office of the South Korean Red Cross, which organizes the inter-Korean family reunions, in Seoul September 21, 2013. North Korea on Saturday ordered the indefinite postponement of a scheduled series of reunions for families divided since the 1950-53 Korean War, dealing a setback to months of efforts to improve relations between the neighbours. Six days of meetings between family members still separated six decades after the war had been due to start on Wednesday in the Mount Kumgang resort, just north of the militarised border. REUTERS/Park Dong-joo/Yonhap (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS CONFLICT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA

SEOUL — North Korea on Saturday ordered the indefinite postponement of a planned six-day reunion event for families divided by the Korean War, quashing a humanitarian program that the South had hoped could spur at least modest cooperation on the peninsula.

The reunion, due to start on Wednesday, was to be the first arrangement in three years, bringing together about 100 people from each side at a mountain resort just north of the demilitarized border. In nearly all cases, those selected for the event were to see relatives — siblings, spouses and children — for the first time in six decades.

The South on Saturday called it “inhumane” to call off the reunion and said that the North had “destroyed the hope” of long-separated family members, according to a statement posted on the Unification Ministry's official Facebook page.

Han Jeong-hwa, 87, from the South Korean city of Busan, had done her hair and bought new clothing. At Mount Kumgang, she was to reunite with her eldest son, now 66, whom she has not seen since he was 5.

“She is too disappointed to even speak about” the postponement, said another of Han's sons, Kim Hee-wook.

The North said Saturday that South Korean conservatives were leading a “vicious confrontation racket” unconducive to dialogue, according to a statement carried by its state-run news agency and attributed to the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.

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