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S. Korea Red Cross invites North for family reuinon talks

Update: August, 28/2015 - 11:21

SEOUL — The South Korean Red Cross has proposed talks with its North Korean counterpart early next month on arranging a reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, officials said on Friday.

The proposal follows an inter-Korean agreement reached earlier this week that committed both sides to organise a reunion sometime around the Chuseok harvest festival holiday, which falls on September 27.

An official from the South's Unification Ministry said the initial Red Cross proposal was for working-level talks to begin on September 7 at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

The last family reunion was held at a North Korean mountain resort in February 2014, and was the first such event for more than three years.

Millions of people were separated during the 1950-53 conflict that sealed the division between the two Koreas.

Most died without having a chance to see or hear from their families on the other side of the border, across which all civilian communication is banned.

About 66,000 South Koreans – 12 per cent of them aged over 90 – are wait-listed for an eventual reunion, but only several hundred can be chosen each time.

The reunion programme 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.

The decision to organise a new reunion was part of a deal the two Koreas secured earlier this week to defuse sky-high military tensions that had pushed the two rivals to the brink of an armed clash.

The two sides have organised reunions in the past, only for the North to cancel at the last minute, citing some perceived insult or display of aggression from the South. — AFP


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