SEOUL, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- South Korea on Tuesday proposed to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to hold talks on resuming Mount Kumgang tour following reunion of families separated by the Korean War (1950-53).
Seoul's Unification Ministry proposed holding Kumgang tour talks on Sept. 25 rather than this Thursday (Aug. 22) that the DPRK suggested as the dialogue date.
"Reunion of separated families is a sheerly humanitarian issue, and it is not associated with the project of Mount Kumgang tour," the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry stressed that it would be necessary to first proceed successfully with the family reunion given that those who wanted to meet their separated family members in the DPRK were of an old age.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye proposed the family reunion on Aug. 15 in her speech marking the National Liberation Day that celebrates the country's independence from the Japanese colonial rule in 1945. Park hoped the reunion could be held around the time of the upcoming Chuseok holidays in mid-September.
On Sunday, Pyongyang accepted Seoul's offer to hold Red Cross dialogue on the family reunion on Aug. 23, but it stressed that the talks should be held at Mount Kumgang. The DPRK made a separate proposal to hold working-level talks on the resumption of the Mount Kumgang tour on Aug. 22.
The DPRK's preference for Mount Kumgang as the venue for the reunion dialogue along with its renewed offer of talks about reopening the scenic mountain tour have been viewed in Seoul as Pyongyang's willingness to address the issues together, which South Korea wanted to deal with separately.
Tour to Mount Kumgang, launched in 1998, were halted in 2008 when a South Korean female tourist was shot dead by a DPRK soldier for apparently venturing into an off-limit area. The tours had brought nearly 2 million South Koreans annually to the scenic mountain before it was put on hold.
Pyongyang said it can discuss such issues as preventing recurrence of the tourist incident, guaranteeing safety of tourists and protecting assets, to which Seoul pays much attention. It reflected the DPRK's eagerness to reopen the suspended tour.
Earlier Tuesday, Pyongyang sent a notice via the communication line at the truce village of Panmunjom, urging Seoul to make a quick response to its proposal for talks on the Mount Kumgang tour resumption. The notice said that "family reunion and Mount Kumgang tour are linked and separating the issues cannot be right."
The Unification Ministry has cautioned over the possible DPRK intent to link the two issues, reiterating that the venue for the reunion dialogue should be the Peace House on the South Korean side of the border village of Panmunjom, not the Mount Kumgang resort.
The ministry said that the two Koreas can seek constructive way to resume the tour by addressing the issue in a more cautious manner given that the tour has been halted for more than five years. It added that it would be desirable to develop inter-Korean relations by building trust gradually.
Meanwhile, the DPRK lambasted President Park for her bellicose remarks on the importance of war preparedness against possible DPRK provocations.
On Monday, Park convened her first meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) since her inauguration in February, saying that it would be "very important" for Seoul to prepare its own defense readiness regardless of changes in surrounding situation and inter-Korean relations.
South Korea and the United States launched their joint military drill, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, on Aug. 19 amid easing tension on the Korean Peninsula. The 12-day military exercise would mobilize 50,000 South Korean troops and 30,000 U.S. forces.
Seoul and Pyongyang reached agreement on reopening the joint industrial park in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong last week after seven rounds of talks.