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Two Koreas begin arranging reunions of families split by war

South Korean President Moon Jae-In, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un before their inter-Korean summit at the Peace House at the south side of the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, on April 27, 2018. (Inter-Korean Summit Press Corps/AFLO/Zuma Press/TNS)

North and South Korean officials met Friday to begin arranging reunions for families left divided by the 1950-53 war.

The talks, which were held in North Korea, were the latest step toward improving relations in tandem with broader nuclear negotiations.

President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed during their first summit to hold the first family reunions in nearly three years later this summer.

It’s an emotional issue for both nations as advocates race against time to bring aging survivors of the war back together.

“We will fulfill the desire of our separated families,” South Korea’s lead delegate, Park Kyung-seo, said before leaving for the meeting of Red Cross officials held at a Diamond Mountain hotel on the North’s scenic east coast.

South Korea sent a four-member delegation, while the North sent three representatives led by Pak Yong Il, vice chairman of a committee promoting reunification.

The sides were also discussing other humanitarian issues, according to the South Korean Unification Ministry.

If held, the reunions would be the first since October 2015 due to rising tensions over the North’s nuclear weapons program.

The April 27 inter-Korean summit helped kickstart the current U.S.-North Korean talks that have tamped down fears of nuclear war. But Moon and Kim also agreed on a number of bilateral initiatives, including restarting military talks and increased cooperation in sports.

The number of South Koreans who have registered with hopes of finding their loved ones in the North was 132,124 as of May, with only about 57,000 still alive, according to Yonhap News Agency.

It said 86 percent are at least 70 years old.

The two Koreas remain technically at war after the three-year conflict ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.


© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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