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The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"The two nations still remain technically at war"
 real 56k

Monday, 14 August, 2000, 07:02 GMT 08:02 UK
Koreas begin 'reconciliation week'
Panmunjom gate
Panmunjom is the only crossing point between the two Koreas
North and South Korea have reopened their liaison offices at the truce village of Panmunjom, in the no-man's land between their heavily-fortified borders.

The opening of the offices - which will provide direct channels of communication between the two sides - marks the beginning of what is being called "Reconciliation Week", aimed at cementing ties between the two long-time foes.

It is one of the follow-up measures to the declaration signed by the leaders of the two Koreas at their summit in June.

North and South Korea are still technically at war since their three-year conflict ended in 1953 with a truce and not a peace treaty.

South Korea has also given an amnesty to more than 3,500 prisoners.

"President Kim Dae-Jung conducted the sweeping amnesty according to the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness that he believes in at a time of a national reconciliation," the presidential spokesman said.

Correspondents said it was not clear whether any convicted North Korean spies would be among those released.

Demilitarised zone

The liaison offices at Panmunjom, in the middle of the so-called demilitarised zone (DMZ), will be equipped with high-tech communications equipment, allowing officials to exchange text and voice messages and images and ensuring rapid consultation in emergency situations.

South Korean woman hoping to meet long lost North Korean relatives
Many South Koreans are keen to track long-lost northern relatives
The offices were first opened in 1992 to try to improve communication between the two states and reduce the risk of clashes occurring along the border.

But four years later, they were closed after a crisis erupted over the North's nuclear programme.

Pyongyang's suspected nuclear ambitions have long been a major concern to the United States, which still keeps around 37,000 troops in South Korea.

Liberation day

On Tuesday, the people of North and South Korea will for the first time since 1953 jointly mark the day when the Korean peninsula was liberated from Japanese colonial rule on 15 August 1945, at the close of World War II.

Kim Jong-Il, North Korean leader
Kim Jong-Il has hailed the new atmosphere
The joint commemoration will be one of the key events in the week of reconciliation between Pyongyang and Seoul and will be followed by the reunion of 200 North and South Koreans separated since the war.

One hundred North Koreans will fly to Seoul, and then return to Pyongyang the same day with a group of 100 South Koreans.

Many relatives will be seeing their brothers, sisters, sons or daughters, for the first time.

More than 70,000 South Koreans applied to take part in the exchange.

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See also:

13 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea hails closer ties
29 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
North Koreans break ice in South
31 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas reach breakthrough deal
28 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
US woos N Korea
19 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: North Korea sets its price
14 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Korean families prepare to reunite
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