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UN report calls for attention to suffering of Korean separated families

A new UN human rights report has called for greater efforts to address the suffering of families separated for more than six decades since the Korean War.

The UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) published the report, titled "Torn Apart: The human rights dimension of the involuntary separation of Korean families," stressing the urgent need to address the issue due to the advanced age of many of the victims.

"It is estimated that over one million and up to five million Koreans moved north or south during the war, leaving their families behind," the report said. "The continuing legacy of war division and the advanced age of most victims call for urgent attention for a prompt resolution of this problem."

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said that the "emotional, psychological, social, and economic toll of involuntary separation persists to this day, as people continue to search for the truth and for contact with their loved ones."

The report called for unhindered contact for people in both countries, public and complete lists of all individuals who have been missing since the war and determining their whereabouts, and protecting those who leave North Korea.

"The recent rise in political and military tensions on the Korean peninsula continues to impede progress in the dialogue regarding family reunions. In 2016 two nuclear tests were reportedly conducted and several missiles reportedly launched by the Democratic People's Republic of the Korea," the report said.

"As rising tensions reduce the chance of addressing the problem of family separation proactively as a common priority, victims risk being further marginalized," it said.

Millions of Koreans remain separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

Since the first summit of their leaders in 2000, the rival Koreas have held 20 rounds of face-to-face family reunion events, but tens of thousands of others are still on the waiting list.

As part of a rare inter-Korean deal on easing tensions in August last year, the two Koreas held reunions for about 100 separated family members from each side at Mount Kumgang in the North in late October. It marked the first such event since February 2014.

But the two Koreas have not held the family reunions so far this year amid North Korea's continued nuclear and missile provocations, which have spiked tensions between the two sides. (Yonhap)