- The Washington Times - Monday, September 28, 2009

SEOUL (AP) | North Korea wants South Korea to reward it for resuming reunions of families separated by the Korean War, an official said Sunday after the communist nation hosted the first such meetings in two years.

Hundreds of Korean families separated for more than half a century were reunited Saturday under a temporary reunion program.

The North agreed last month to resume the Red Cross-arranged reunions as part of efforts to reach out to South Korea and the United States after months of tension over its nuclear and missile programs.

South Korean Red Cross chief Yoo Chong-ha told reporters covering the reunion at the North’s Diamond Mountain resort that his North Korean counterpart, Jang Jae-on asked him Saturday about Seoul rewarding Pyongyang for the family reunions.

According to South Korean media pool reports, Mr. Yoo quoted Mr. Jang as saying: “This reunion was [arranged] as the North offered a special amity. How about South Korea offering its amity in response to this?”

Mr. Yoo said the North Korean Red Cross chief didn’t say what reward his country wants from the South. But the pool reports, without citing any source, said the North appeared to be seeking resumption of food and fertilizer aid to the North, noting the country made similar demands in the past.

For years, South Korea had been one of Pyongyang’s biggest benefactors. But South Korea has suspended unconditional aid to the impoverished North amid frayed ties following the inauguration last year of conservative President Lee Myung-bak. He took a harder line on the regime than previous more liberal governments that actively engaged the North. Family reunions, which began in 2000, had also been halted following Mr. Lee’s inauguration.

Millions of families remain separated following the Korean Peninsula’s division in 1945 and the ensuing Korean War, which ended with an armistice in 1953, not a peace treaty.

There are no mail, telephone or e-mail exchanges between ordinary citizens from the two Koreas. They are unable to travel to the other half of the peninsula without government approval.

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