South Korea will continue its efforts to hold reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War on a regular basis in a bid to better address humanitarian issues arising from decades of division, the unification ministry said Tuesday.
In its policy briefing to lawmakers, the ministry said that it will hold consultations with North Korea to regularize family reunion events, locate long-lost families and allow people to visit their hometowns on the other side.
Currently, 89 elderly South Koreans are at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort on North Korea's east coast, to temporarily reunite with their families living in the North. The reunion event is the first of its kind since October 2015.
The family reunions are a follow up on an agreement that their leaders reached during an April summit in which they promised to address humanitarian issues caused by decades of separation of families in the wake of the Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. In June, the two held Red Cross talks and agreed to hold the family reunion event on the occasion of the Aug. 15 liberation day from Japan's colonial rule.
Following the three-day reunions that end on Wednesday, 83 North Koreans will also meet their relatives found to be alive in the South from Friday to Sunday. More than 300 South Koreans will travel to the venue later this week for the event.
In the policy briefing, the ministry said that it will also determine the date as soon as possible for the recently agreed-upon third summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-in in Pyongyang next month and hold working-level talks with North Korea to work out details, such as protocol and security.
With regard to a joint inter-Korean liaison office the two Koreas are pushing to open in the North's border town of Kaesong, the ministry said that its launch will foster cross-border communication around the clock.
Recently, controversy flared up over the establishment of the liaison office as a news report said that it could be in violation of not only UN sanctions but also restrictions imposed by the US, citing an anonymous American official.
South Korea rebuffed the report immediately, saying that the operation of the liaison office does not involve providing any economic gains to North Korea.
The two Koreas earlier agreed to open the liaison office aimed at expanding cross-border exchanges. The Seoul government has said that it will be launched by the end of August. For the trial operation, the South started to supply power to the office last week.
"The government does not see the liaison office as (violating) international sanctions against North Korea," Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told lawmakers.
When asked about whether the South's power supply could breach the sanctions regime, the minister said that electricity will be used by South Korean officials who will stay at the office, not for North Korea.
The minister reported that the government will push for developing the liaison office into the two Koreas' representative offices.
"(The location of envisioned representative offices) could be in Seoul and Pyongyang, but we need to consult more with the North," he added.(Yonhap)