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Envoys from Two Koreas Meet to Discuss Family Reunions

  • Jason Strother

Delegations from South and North Korea are meeting to discuss the resumption of family reunions. Thousands of families remain separated by the political division of the Korean peninsula.

South Korea dispatched a delegation Wednesday morning to the Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea. There they will meet with representatives from Pyongyang to discuss the resumption of family reunions, overseen by the Korean Red Cross.

Kim Young-chol, the head of Seoul's representatives, says Kim says his team will try to ensure that during the next round of reunions as many elderly South Koreans as possible will have the opportunity to meet with their separated relatives.

Earlier this month, North Korea proposed resuming the reunions.

The last time families from the divided Koreas met was in 2007. The communist North called off reunions in response to what it considers South Korean President Lee Myung Bak's hard-line policy. Mr. Lee has pushed North Korea to fulfill its pledges to end its nuclear program and had scaled back aid to the impoverished country.

But in recent weeks, the Kim Jong Il government in the North has offered a series of good will gestures to both South Korea and the United States. Last Friday, it sent representatives to honor former South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung, who died a few days earlier.

Since 2000, the Korean Red Cross has conducted 16 face-to-face family reunions and several via video conference. They estimate that 600,000 South Koreans have relatives in North Korea. Most are elderly and these reunions may be the only chance for many to see long-lost relatives.

Since fighting in the Korean War halted in 1953, there have been no telephone or postal links between separated families. The two nations remain technically at war, since only an armistice was signed at the end of the conflict.

The delegates will meet until the end of this week. Tentatively, the two countries hope to hold a reunion in the beginning of October, when Koreans celebrate the thanksgiving holiday of Chuseok.

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