North Korea-South Korea: North Korea has notified South Korea of its intention to return six South Korean citizens, the Ministry of Unification disclosed.
An official told reporters on 24 October, "Via a notice issued in the name of the chair of the Central Committee of the Chosun (Korean) Red Cross Society, North Korea today gave notice that it will send back six of our detained citizens tomorrow afternoon via Panmunjom."
"On 26 February 2010, North Korea reported that it was investigating four of our citizens," the official recalled. "Although it is belated, we consider it a good thing that the North has decided to take this humanitarian measure," the Unification Ministry said. "We will get custody of our six citizens, verify their identities and find out how and why they entered the North."
Comment: The release appears to be a unilateral North Korean action, rather than the result of negotiations. North Korea has detained hundreds of South Koreans, mostly fishermen, over the years for entering North Korean territory or waters without permission.. One report said some of the men about to be released might have been held for three years.
South Korean media reported the announcement came as a surprise. Apparently the North is making another adjustment back to conciliation and easing tension. What is not yet clear is what the North expects in exchange from South Korea.
Kaesong update. North Korea today also confirmed that members of the South Korean National Assembly Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee will be allowed to visit the Kaesong Industrial Complex on 30 October.
A Ministry of Unification spokesman said, "The North expressed its acceptance of our application at 9AM today. The visit will go ahead on the 30th as previously agreed with the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee."
"As the purpose for the visit is to inspect the site and review plans for support, we consider North Korea's agreement fortunate. The government is preparing ways to contribute to the developmental normalization of the complex, and will strive to ensure that the visit goes ahead as planned."
The 57-person South Korean delegation will include all 24 full members of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee.
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