Police officers and soldiers held captive by the leftist guerrilla group known as FARC pleaded to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to negotiate their release in a series of nine proof-of-life videos released Monday.
Pyongyang limited access to the North Korean border city of Kaesong in December as relations worsened between the nations. The decision restricted traffic to and from a jointly run industrial complex there. Kaesong is also a popular tourist destination. The loosening of border controls means workers and raw materials will be able to cross with greater ease. Border crossings had been limited to three entry times in the morning and three in the afternoon. The crossing times have been expanded to 12 in the morning and 11 afternoon return trips. Negotiations between North Korea and the South’s Hyundai Group in mid-August led to the changes. North and South Korea have remained in conflict since the conclusion of the Korean War in 1953. The war ended in a truce, but no formal peace treaty was signed. A Hyundai subsidiary handles all tourism and business projects between the Koreas.
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Rapprochement talks between the two sides hit a wall after conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in early 2008. He had a tougher stance toward the North than his liberal predecessor, Roh Moo-Hyun. Several steps in the past two weeks have hinted at a thaw in relations, however. Last week, the two sides had the first high-level, cross-border contact in nearly two years. And Friday, the countries reached an agreement on future reunions for families separated for decades by the Korean War. The agreement on reunions came after three days of talks between the two sides, mediated by the Red Cross, in North Korea, Yonhap reported. Reunions will be held from September 26 to October 1, Yonhap reported. The nations on Tuesday were to exchange the names of 200 people seeking relatives across the border.