South Korea will work toward resuming inter-Korean family reunions prior to a national holiday in the fall, South Korea’s point man on North Korea has said.
According to government data, nearly 130,000 South Koreans have been on the family reunion waiting list since 1988. About half of those on the wait list have passed away.
“It’s only natural that we strive to ease the pain for citizens in both Koreas and work toward realizing a family reunion for humanitarian purpose. Our plan is to schedule such an event ahead of the Chuseok holidays,” South Korea’s Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo told South Korea’s KBS-TV.
Chuseok is one of the two major traditional holidays on the Korean peninsula, along with the Lunar New Year. The harvest festival is held around the Autumn Equinox.
The family reunions between the two Koreas have been stalled since February 2014.
Hong’s comments raise the possibility that Seoul might make a fresh offer of talks to Pyongyang to resume the family reunions.
A South Korean official told VOA the South Korean government remains open to the possibility of resumption of the reunion as it is an important policy issue for the government.
Hong said Seoul is willing to discuss the resumption of an inter-Korean tour program and the lifting of the so-called May 24 measure, a retaliatory action taken by the South against the North after the fatal sinking of a South Korean navy ship in 2010 that claimed the lives of 46 sailors. Hong added the two matters should be discussed separately.
The Mount Kumgang tour program allowed South Koreans to visit the North’s famous resort. The South suspended the project in July 2008, after a South Korean tourist was shot to death by a North Korean guard. Recently, a group of South Korean firms that invested in the project called for a resumption of the tour.
Hong said the safety of South Korean visitors is the key to resumption of the tour program.
Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report.