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 North and South Korea family reunions 'go ahead'

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PostSubject: North and South Korea family reunions 'go ahead'   Fri Oct 29, 2010 11:26 pm

North and South Korea family reunions 'go ahead'
South Korean Kim Tae-seok (R), 90, and his North Korean daughter Kim Mi-hye during their three-day family reunion at the Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea - 20 October 2007 Millions of people were separated from their families by the 1950-53 Korean War

North and South Korea are holding another round of reunions of families split by the countries' war in the 1950s, despite an exchange of fire between border troops on Friday.

More than 400 South Koreans were bussed over the border for a three-day reunion with relatives.

The reunions will take place at the Mount Kumgang resort.

The meetings are the first since the South accused the North of sinking one of its warships in March.
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Lee Jong-joo, of the South Korean Unification Ministry, told Agence France-Presse news agency: "The reunions will go ahead as scheduled despite the firing."

On Friday, North Korean troops fired two rounds towards a frontline unit at the border and South Korean soldiers returned fire three times.

The shooting occurred in Hwacheon, some 90km (56 miles) north-east of the South's capital, Seoul.

The latest reunions involve 97 South Korean families, who will meet the same number of North Korean families.

Lee Moon-yeong, in his 70s, told AFP he was meeting a brother he thought might have been killed in the Korean War.

A second set of reunions is set for Wednesday-Friday at the same venue, involving 96 South Koreans and 207 North Koreans.

The last reunions were held in October 2009.
Waiting list

Tensions between the two rivals have been high since the South accused the North of torpedoing one of its warships in March, with the loss of 46 lives. Pyongyang denies the charge.

Millions of people were separated from their families during the chaos of the 1950-53 Korean War. The North and South are still technically at war because the conflict ended in an armistice and no peace treaty was signed.

About 20,000 families have been permitted brief reunions since a landmark inter-Korean summit in 2000, but the Red Cross-brokered programme has been a hostage of the fluctuating relations between North and South.

For many families, though, time is running out - South Korean officials estimate that up to 4,000 people on the waiting list die each year.

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PostSubject: Re: North and South Korea family reunions 'go ahead'   Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:25 am

Sri Lanka blocks BBC from travelling to war commission
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Colombo

Human rights groups say the war commission, which started hearings in August, is not independent.
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The Sri Lankan government has again blocked BBC News from travelling to the north to attend public hearings of a commission looking into the country's civil war.

The defence ministry refused to give reasons for preventing the BBC covering the story in Jaffna.

Post-war northern Sri Lanka remains heavily militarised and foreigners need defence ministry permission to visit most of it.

Permission is often denied.

This is the second time in two months that the government has blocked BBC News from travelling north to cover the hearings of the war commission, despite the fact that local journalists are travelling up from the capital, Colombo, for the same purpose.

Both sides criticised
The panel is gathering information about the final years of the war with the stated aim of preventing another one.

At earlier hearings in the former war zone, witnesses have strongly criticised both the government and the Tamil Tigers.

Civilians have accused the military of being responsible for the disappearance of their family members, or killing civilians when bombarding the war zone.

The Tamil Tigers have been accused of regularly shooting people who were trying to flee to safety.

The government has blocked the BBC this time, despite saying the commission is vitally important and despite frequent official reports saying that Jaffna is undergoing a post-war economic revival.

Last month three human rights groups including Amnesty International publicly declined the war commission's invitation to them to testify.

They alleged that the panel was not independent, as its members had fulfilled senior offical roles or were, they said, overtly pro-government.

The groups say the commission has no mandate to investigate allegations of war crimes.

The commission chairman has told the BBC that it may, however, be able to recommend prosecutions for alleged rights violations.

On Tuesday, parliament further extended a long-running state of emergency which gives the security forces strong powers to detain people without trial.

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