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North, South Korea Agree to Resume Family Reunions

  • VOA News

South Korea's chief delegate Lee Deok-haeng, second from right, shakes hands with North Korean counterpart Pak Yong Il, second from left, before the Inter-Korean Red Cross working level meeting at Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Sept. 7, 2015.

South Korea's chief delegate Lee Deok-haeng, second from right, shakes hands with North Korean counterpart Pak Yong Il, second from left, before the Inter-Korean Red Cross working level meeting at Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Sept. 7, 2015.

North and South Korea have agreed to resume the reunion of families separated more than 60 years by the Korean War, according to Seoul.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said Tuesday the reunions will be held from October 20-26 at North Korea's scenic Mount Kumgang resort.

Mt. Kumgang National Park, North Korea

Mt. Kumgang National Park, North Korea

The agreement was reached following talks that began Monday at the truce village of Panmunjom.

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. The last round of reunions occurred in February 2014, also at Mount Kumgang.

South Koreans who were separated from their families during the Korean War, talk with Red Cross members as they check application forms to reunite with their family members living in North Korea, at the Korea Red Cross headquarters in Seoul, South Korea,

South Koreans who were separated from their families during the Korean War, talk with Red Cross members as they check application forms to reunite with their family members living in North Korea, at the Korea Red Cross headquarters in Seoul, South Korea,

The agreement comes 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 analysts say tensions could worsen again if the North launches a long-range missile to celebrate the 70th anniversary next month of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party.

Meetings

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.

Some material for this report came from AP.

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