S. Korea officials cross into North ahead of family reunion

Update: October, 15/2015 - 11:02

SEOUL — South Korea sent advance teams into North Korea today ahead of next week's rare reunion for families separated by the Korean War – a hugely emotional event.

The October 20-26 reunion in North Korea's Mount Kumgang resort is the second in five years and, ever since it was agreed in August, has been dogged by concerns that Pyongyang might find cause to cancel.

The advance teams included 14 Red Cross officials and 11 maintenance workers who were tasked with putting the finishing touches on preparations for the meeting, Seoul's Unification Ministry said.

"Some of them will stay in the venue until the beginning of the reunion to coordinate logistical matters for the event and other details," a ministry spokeswoman said.

Next week's event is the result of an agreement the two Koreas reached in August to de-escalate tensions.

Millions of people were separated during the 1950-53 Korean conflict that sealed the division between the two countries.About 66,000 South Koreans – many of them in their 80s and 90s – are on the waiting list for an eventual reunion.

The upcoming reunion will allow about 100 people from each side to meet their relatives, and the oldest participants are two 98-year-old South Korean men who have daughter and a son each in the North.

The Mount Kumgang resort – developed by South Korea's giant Hyundai Group – was once a symbol of inter-Korea reconciliation, hosting thousands of South Korean tourists allowed to travel under the "Sunshine Policy" of engagement pioneered by then president Kim Dae-Jung in the late 1990s.

Seoul halted the tours in 2008 after a South Korean tourist was shot and killed after straying into a military area. — AFP