S. Korea offers North talks on family reunions
South Korean Kim Se-Rin (R) waves goodbye from a bus to his North Korean sister Kim Young-Sook (C) and nephew Kim Ki-Bok (centre L) as he departs a family reunion at the resort area of Mount Kumgang, North Korea, February 22, 2014 - by AFP
The message sent by fax across the heavily fortified frontier proposed a meeting on March 12 at the border truce village of Panmunjom, the Unification Ministry said.
"We hope that the North will quickly respond to our proposal in consideration of the pain and suffering of the separated families," ministry spokeswoman Park Soo-Jin told reporters.
The initiative came a week after the two Koreas wrapped up the first such family reunion for more than three years -- held at a mountain resort in North Korea from February 20 to 25.
The formal request followed a call by South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on Tuesday for the reunions to be held on a regular basis and for separated families to be allowed more ways to communicate -- including by mail and video conferencing.
Because the 1950-53 conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty, the two countries remain technically at war, and there is almost no direct contact permitted between their civilian populations.
Millions of Koreans were separated by the war and the vast majority have since died without having any communication at all with surviving relatives.
Some 71,000 -- mostly aged over 70 -- are still alive and wait-listed for the reunion events, for which only about 100 from each side are allowed to join each time.
The reunion programme began in earnest after a historic North-South summit in 2000 but it has constantly been hampered by volatility in cross-border relations.
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