North, South Korea Begin Talks on Family Reunions – Voice of America

Representatives from North and South Korea began talks Monday aimed at resuming the reunion of families separated over 60 years by the Korean War. 


Red Cross officials from both Seoul and Pyongyang sat down for discussions at the truce village in Panmunjom to discuss where and when to hold the latest round of reunions, which last occurred in February 2014.  There is speculation the reunions will take place in October at the scenic North Korean resort of Mount Kumgang, the site of the 2014 event.


Millions of Koreans were separated by the 1950-53 war that split the peninsula between the communist North and democratic South, and went decades without contacting each other until after the historic inter-Korean summit in 2000. The reunions were initially held on an annual basis, but were scaled back due to strained cross-border relations.  Many of the participants are in their 70s and 80s, and the reunions are the only chance to see their long-lost loved ones, as both governments ban the exchange of letters, phone calls and emails across the border. 


About 66,000 South Koreans have applied to be selected for the reunion, but only a few hundred are selected each time. 


Monday’s talks came about after the two sides reached an agreement late last month that interrupted rising tensions that appear to have brought them to the brink of war.


Some foreign analysts remain skeptical about inter-Korean ties because of speculation that North Korea will fire what it calls a satellite to celebrate next month’s 70th birthday of its ruling party. Similar past launches triggered an international standoff as South Korea and other neighboring countries called them disguised tests for long-range missiles.


About 22,500 Koreans had participated in brief reunions – 18,800 in person and the others by video – during a period of detente. None were given a second chance to meet their relatives, according to South Korea’s Red Cross.


South Korean officials have long called for holding reunions more regularly and expanding the number of people taking part. North Korea is seen as worrying that doing so could open the country to influence from more affluent South Korea and threaten the ruling party’s grip on power.


The two Koreas remain divided along the world’s most heavily fortified border because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.


Some material for this report came from the Associated Press.

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