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North Korea blames South, cancels family reunions

By Madison Park, CNN
updated 1:32 AM EDT, Sat September 21, 2013
Relatives weep during a reunion of families divided by the Korean War, during this 2010 event.
Relatives weep during a reunion of families divided by the Korean War, during this 2010 event.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • North Korea postpones reunions of family members divided by war
  • North Korea blasts South Korea and conservatives
  • Family reunions were to be held between Wednesday and September 30

(CNN) -- In a sudden turn of events, North Korea on Saturday postponed reunions that were to start next week for families separated during the Korean War.

A statement in North Korea's state news agency KCNA blamed South Korea and said the reunions could not be rescheduled until a "normal atmosphere" was restored for dialogue and negotiations.

North Korea claimed it had made sincere efforts to negotiate with its southern neighbor, but accused the South's conservatives of "reckless and vicious confrontations."

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It also alluded to a recent South Korean scandal involving a leftist politician who is accused of plotting to overthrow the Seoul government in case of a war with the North, calling the recent case a "witch-hunting campaign."

The North Korean statement also resumed referring to South Korea as a "puppet regime."

The family reunions were to be held from Wednesday to September 30 in North Korea.

The North also announced that it would postpone talks of re-opening tours at Mount Kumgang for South Koreans. This was the location where a South Korean tourist was shot by a North Korean soldier in 2008 for allegedly walking into an off-limits area.

The cancellation of the family reunions comes less than a week after it appeared that tensions between the two Koreas were cooling.

On Monday, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is a joint park and a key symbol of cooperation between the Koreas, re-opened after a five-month hiatus. This had re-ignited hopes of better relations between the two nations.

The family reunions are highly anticipated events, as the last such reunion took place in 2010. The emotionally-charged reunions bring together hundreds of families divided by the Korean War, which occurred between 1950-1953.

The first such family reunion took place following a landmark summit between the two Koreas in 2000.

The meetings are bittersweet, full of tears and hugs from those who haven't seen each other in more than half a century. The chances of any of the divided family members meeting again are slim.

A report released this week in South Korea reported that nearly 44% of the 129,000 people who registered in a database to meet their separated relatives have died.

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