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South, North Korea to resume family reunions after tensions

Seoul is also planning other North-South exchanges that involve ministerial-level talks to discuss the possible removal of sanctions.

By Elizabeth Shim
South, North Korea to resume family reunions after tensions
South Koreans who have been separated from their families in the North after the 1950-53 Korean War are to participate in a state-sponsored reunion that could take place in October, according to the South Korean Red Cross. File Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Preparations are under way in South Korea to hold North-South family reunions, but the meeting may be too late for some South Koreans with aging relatives in the North.

Seoul and Pyongyang had agreed on Tuesday to resume civic exchange with family reunions on Sept. 27, but that date may be too soon for organizers, South Korean television network SBS reported on Wednesday.

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A date in early October may be more feasible for planners, but Pyongyang's Oct. 10 anniversary of the Workers' Party of Korea means the reunion is likely to be postponed after the event that commemorates the 70th anniversary of party rule.

Kim Seong-keun, a South Korean Red Cross official in charge of inter-Korea cooperation, said preparations take at least a month, and a mid-October reunion date was more realistic.

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South Koreans who have been separated from their families in the North after the 1950-53 Korean War welcomed the news, including Shim Yeong-sun, a 70-year-old South Korean woman who last saw her father Shim Ui-myeon in August 1950 when she was 5, Yonhap reported.

Shim said her mother's last wish was to be reunited with her husband after more than six decades of separation before she died in 2013. Shim said Seoul notified her of her eligibility to take part in the state-sponsored reunion – but it was not confirmed whether her father was still alive. North Korean soldiers took her father during their invasion of Seoul in 1950, and she and her mother never saw him again.

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Seoul is also planning other North-South exchanges that involve ministerial-level talks to discuss the possible removal of the sanctions that ban all South Korean trade and investment in North Korea. The sanctions were imposed after the torpedoing of the South Korean ship Cheonan that killed 46 South Korean seamen in 2010.

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