Cablegate: Inter-Korean Red Cross Talks On Family


DE RUEHUL #1400/01 2440933
O 010933Z SEP 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SEOUL 001400


E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/01/2019

Classified By: POL M/C James L. Wayman. Reasons 1.4(b/d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: The North Korean delegation to the August
26-28 inter-Korean Red Cross talks showed up armed with
instructions from Kim Jong-il (KJI) to agree immediately to
family reunions by Chusok (Korean Thanksgiving, October 2-3),
but was not prepared to negotiate additional reunions.
Ministry of Unification (MOU) xxxxx that,
angling for food assistance, the DPRK delegation asked
whether the ROKG brought a "gift," the ROKG responded that
such aid would be premature. In a separate meeting, an MOU
official described the mechanics of the family reunion
process, noting that the DPRK gathered its participants in
Pyongyang for a month of fattening up and indoctrination
prior to the family reunification. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- ------------
KJI: Green Light for Chusok Deadline, but Nothing Beyond
--------------------------------------------- ------------

2. (C) xxxxx, who
recently returned xxxxx
xxxxx at Mount Kumgang. xxxxx, a seasoned MOU officer
who participated in previous negotiations with the DPRK, said
he was surprised that DPRK head delegate Choi Sung-ik was
unusually cooperative during this round of talks. Choi,
infamous throughout the ROKG for his gruff demeanor and tough
tactics, came to the table emphasizing he was authorized by
Kim Jong-il (KJI) to "meet the Chusok deadline." The North
Korean delegation, however, was not authorized by KJI to
discuss anything beyond October.

DPRK Asks About Food "Gift"

3. (C) According xxxxx, the DPRK delegation inquired whether
the South Korean delegation had brought a "gift," hinting
that they were expecting food aid. The ROK delegation
responded that it was "premature" for such an arrangement.
xxxxx noted that this was a big change, pointing out that
during the past 16 rounds of Red Cross negotiations, the ROKG
always asked for the family reunions and rewarded the DPRK
with rice and fertilizer aid. This time, however, the
reunion suggestion came from the DPRK and the ROKG did not,
and has no plans to, offer food aid.

Atmospherics: Food Shipped in from Pyongyang

4. (C) Addressing atmospherics during the talks, xxxxx said the
two sides came to an impasse when the DPRK delegation pushed
hard for the resumption of Mount Kumgang tours. They argued
that KJI had given his oral guarantee that ROK citizens would
be safe and "nothing could be more secure" than KJI's word.
The ROK delegation pushed back, asking for a written
guarantee. The impasse was broken when the ROK side inquired
whether the resumption of Kumgang tours was a prerequisite
for the Chusok family reunions; the DPRK delegation said no.
(xxxxx added that he suspects some kind of amendment to
the 2004 security agreement for Mt. Kumkang tours will be
reached in the near future as a compromise. End note.)

5. (C) xxxxx, both delegations took turns hosting
dinner for the two nights they spent at Mount Kumgang. He
said the hotel and kitchen personnel were hired "in a hurry"
from nearby villages and food was shipped in from Pyongyang.
xxxxx noted that the ROK delegation was charged USD 50 per
person for hosting its 70-person banquet, a price that in
fact covered the tab for the banquet hosted by the DPRK
delegation the previous evening.

Carrot Time?

6. (C) xxxxx related that following the Red Cross talks, the
ROKG has been reviewing what, if any, "carrots" should be
offered to the DPRK for its string of conciliatory gestures.
According xxxxx, senior MOU officials recognize that North
Korea's goodwill is cyclical, but also want to acknowledge
that DPRK has done "all that it could do, except for
denuclearization," during the past few weeks. xxxxx said that
the ROKG was carefully observing developments in U.S.-DPRK
relations and emphasized that Seoul would come up with a

position "not too far" from Washington's position.

--------------------------------------------- -
Potemkin: Fattening Up the Reliable Relatives
--------------------------------------------- -

7. (C) xxxxx walked us through the mechanics of what comes next
in the family reunion process. xxxxx explained that the two
Koreas exchanged a list of 200 names each on September 1; the
ROKG picked its families by lottery, the DPRK by political
reliability. xxxxx explained that each government would then
search for relatives of those on the lists. In the past, he
said, about half of the participating ROK families received
confirmation from the DPRK that their relatives were alive
and were then able to hold unifications. The rest of the ROK
families received death confirmations or the ambiguous word

8. (C) xxxxx asserted that once the DPRK identifies
politically reliable family members to participate in the
upcoming reunions, they will be transported to Pyongyang and
then "fattened up" with regular meals and vitamins to mask
the extent of food shortages and chronic malnutrition in the
north. The "lucky" DPRK reunion participants will also be
provided with new clothing -- suits for men and traditional
Korean "hanbok" for women -- for the televised event. In our
earlier meeting, xxxxx had commented that MOU gives "pocket
and travel money" to ROK participants which they then pass on
to their North Korean relatives. xxxxx sighed that the
majority of the MOU cash is usually pocketed by North Korean
officials, who also force the North Korean participants to
return their new clothes.

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