S. Korean leader urges new talks on separated families

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye. AFP PHOTO

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye. AFP PHOTO

SEOUL: South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on Tuesday called for new talks with North Korea on allowing families separated by the Korean War to exchange letters and hold reunions via video conferencing.

Park said that more than 6,000 people should meet with relatives from the other side every year if all separated families are to see their loved ones at least once before they die, according the president’s office.

“Many families do not have time to wait any more,” she said, urging her cabinet to push for talks with North Korea on letter exchanges and video reunions for separated families.

Park last week said the two Koreas should hold family reunions on a regular basis, but Pyongyang has not responded to the offer, which came after the two Koreas wrapped up their first reunion in more than three years.

The six-day reunion last month at the North’s Mount Kumgang resort brought together about 750 people from both sides, an event that raised hopes of a sustainable improvement in volatile cross-border ties.

Because the Korean conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty, the two countries remain technically at war, and there is almost no direct contact permitted between their civilian populations.

Millions of Koreans were separated by the 1950-1953 war, and the vast majority have since died without having any communication at all with surviving relatives.

The reunion program began in earnest after a historic North-South summit in 2000, but the waiting list has always been far larger than the numbers that could be accommodated.



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