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North, South Korea Agree to Resume Family Reunions

Oh Seong-ik (R), 83, who said he has family members living in North Korea, smokes after preparing documents for reunion, outside the Red Cross building in Seoul, South Korea, September 7, 2015.

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

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

North Korean state media confirmed the agreement, reached following talks that began Monday and lasted through the night at the Panmunjom truce village.

One hundred people from each country will be selected to participate in the reunions, the first to be held since February 2014.

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 resumption of the reunions is part of a larger agreement reached late last month that interrupted rising tensions that appear to have brought the two countries 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.

North Korea has in the past agreed to hold family reunions only to back out at the last minute after failing to receive concessions from Seoul.