Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Unification minister hopes to expand inter-Korean family reunions

(Yonhap) -- South Korean Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik on Monday expressed hopes of expanding temporary reunions of family members separated by the Korean War six decades ago, saying his ministry and the Red Cross should work closely toward this goal.

His remarks came during a rare meeting with Yu Jung-keun, the new chief of South Korea's Red Cross, which handles family reunions with North Korea. Millions of Koreans have been separated from their family members since the 1950-53 conflict ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, leaving the two sides in a technical state of war.

"I would like to see the number of family reunions increase through cooperation between the Unification Ministry and the Red Cross, and by getting the North to respond (positively)," the minister told the Red Cross chief at the latter's office in Seoul. "If possible, I would like them to be held on a regular basis."

The meeting came days after Yu, Seoul's point man on Pyongyang, told reporters he planned to meet with the Red Cross chief to discuss arranging temporary reunions for the elderly family members.

"If we don't hurry, these family members will live the rest of their lives with deep resentment, as 43 percent of them are aged 80 or older, and up to 4,000 of them pass away each year," he told the Red Cross chief, asking her to work together toward a reunion before the end of this year.

Yu Jung-keun agreed with the minister's comments, saying she believed the family meetings would wrap up this year nicely.

More than a dozen reunions have been held since a landmark summit in 2000 brought together tens of thousands of family members separated by the war. Hopes are rising for another reunion after Yu Woo-ik took office last month on a pledge to exercise flexibility toward the communist neighbor, which has been blamed for raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula through two deadly attacks on the South last year.

Source: Yonhap News

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