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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
S Korean leader hails North accord
Kim Dae-jung (left) and Lim Dong-won
President Kim welcomes his envoy home
South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has called last week's agreement to resume contacts with North Korea a "big success", but accepted many people were concerned whether the agreement would hold.

President Kim was speaking to his cabinet after the return of his envoy Lim Dong-won, who was told of North Korea's decision to resume dialogue during a meeting with reclusive leader Kim Jong-il.

The most important thing is whether Pyongyang is willing to break its old habit of opening its door when it wants something and shutting that door when it doesn't agree with something

South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo
"Judging by the agreements themselves, the envoy's visit proved a big success," chief presidential spokesperson Park Sun-sook quoted Kim Dae-jung as saying.

He called the agreement "a fortunate event for peace on the Korean peninsular", especially given South Korea's role as co-host in football's upcoming World Cup.

But Kim Dae-jung appeared to damp down any exaggerated hopes about the breakthrough.

"It is indeed a fact that many of our people are worried whether this agreement will be implemented," he was quoted as saying.

The diplomatic mission to the Communist North ended on Saturday with a joint statement in which the two Koreas pledged to fully revive their rapprochement process, begun after a historic summit two years ago.

South Korean presidential envoy Lim Dong-won said on his return that Kim Jong-il was also ready to resume talks with the United States and Japan.

A White House official said the US was reserving judgement until it had heard directly from North Korea.

Fresh hope

Last week's meetings were the first public talks between the two Koreas since November.

North Korea suspended relations with the South, angered by what it saw as the hard-line policy of the US, a close ally of Seoul.

In January, President Bush said North Korea was part of an axis of evil which was developing weapons of mass destruction.

Korean accord
Resumption of family reunions
Talks on economic co-operation
Work on cross-border railway

The accord announced on Saturday also includes the resumption of family reunions, and talks on tourism and economic co-operation.

It also pledged that the two Koreas would resume work on a cross-border railway and roads, including new links along the east coast.

South Korea's official news agency said on Monday that preparations had begun for the possible visit to North Korea later this month of 100 South Koreans with family there.

The reunions were likely to take place at the northern resort of Mount Kumgang, possibly on 28 April, the agency said.

Last week's agreement has given fresh hope to millions of families on both sides of the border that they might one day be reunited with loved-ones they have not seen for more than 50 years, since the Korean War.

There have only been three limited exchanges between elderly relatives since the landmark summit between the two Korean leaders in Seoul in June 2000.

The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"South Korea regards the family reunions as a high priority"
See also:

03 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
US grants N Korea nuclear funds
28 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea pressed to resume dialogue
29 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea calls off Japan talks
26 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea gears up for festivities
01 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea hits back at US
26 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
China's North Koreans in hiding
05 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Korean exchange prompts talk of progress
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