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  • Apr 17, 2014
  • Updated: 3:11pm

North Korea

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a country in East Asia, located in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering South Korea and China. Its capital, Pyongyang, is the country's largest city by both land area and population. It is a single-party state led by the Korean Workers' Party (KWP), and governed by Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un since 2012. It has a population of 24,052,231 (UN-assisted DPRK census 2008) made up of Koreans and a smaller Chinese minority. Japan 'opened' Korea in 1876 and annexed it in 1910. The Republic of Korea (ROK) was founded with US support in the south in August 1948 and the Soviet-backed Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north in September that year. 

NewsAsia
KOREAN PENINSULA

North Korea okays family reunions despite Southern drills with US

Talks see North Korea allow meetings of divided kin despite South's military exercises with US

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 4:40pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 February, 2014, 12:36am
 

High-level talks between the rival Koreas ended yesterday with a rare agreement to go ahead as planned with a reunion for divided families, despite the North's objections to overlapping South Korean-US military drills.

The two sides also agreed to stop exchanging verbal insults and to continue their nascent dialogue at a convenient date, according to a joint statement read in Seoul by South Korea's chief talks delegate Kim Kyou-hyun.

The agreement, which was also carried on the North's official KCNA news agency, suggested a significant concession by North Korea, which had wanted the South to postpone the February 24 start of its annual drills with the US until after the reunion.

The South had refused, arguing that the two issues - one humanitarian and one military - should not be linked.

The apparent concession and the commitment to continue what has been the highest-level official contact between the two countries since 2007 will fuel hopes that they might be entering a period of genuinely constructive engagement.

"Agreement was reached today after North Korea accepted our position that the family reunion event is important ... as the first step to build trust," Kim said.

It followed talks on Wednesday and yesterday in the border village of Panmunjom where the armistice ending the 1950-53 Korean war was signed.

The dialogue was the first substantive follow-up to statements by the leaders of both countries - South Korean President Park Geun-hye and the North's Kim Jong-un - professing a desire for improved inter-Korean ties.

There had already been signs of a shift in the North's position at Wednesday's first round, when it demanded the military drills be postponed - a change from its usual position that they be cancelled entirely.

Seoul's unequivocal rejection of any change to the drills' schedule because of the family reunion was lent weight on Thursday by visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Addressing a press briefing in Seoul, Kerry urged Pyongyang to act with "human decency" and not try to use "one [issue] as an excuse to somehow condition the other".

Millions of Koreans were separated by the 1950-53 conflict, and the vast majority have since died without having had any communication at all with surviving relatives.

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