MOUNT KUMGANG -- The head of South Korea's Red Cross said Tuesday that he seeks to visit North Korea next month to discuss inter-Korean cooperation on humanitarian issues.
In a meeting with pool reporters covering the reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War underway at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort on the North's east coast, Park Kyung-seo, the head of the Korean Red Cross, said that talks are underway on a September trip to Pyongyang.
"We are coordinating a trip to Pyongyang in the middle of September," he said. "If cooperation based on the spirit of the Red Cross, or in (the North's) words, if mutually beneficial cooperation projects are determined, we will meet reporters in an official setting (again to share the outcome)."
Park didn't specify what those projects could be and whether his September trip might be timed with the already proposed summit meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang next month.
In June, Park led South Korea's delegation during Red Cross talks with North Korea, in which they agreed to hold reunions of families split for nearly seven decades in the wake of the Korean War. The ongoing weeklong event marks the first of its kind since October 2015.
This event is a follow-up on an agreement reached in the April Moon-Kim summit to address humanitarian challenges arising from decades of division caused by the conflict, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Park called the issue of separated families a matter of "urgency," adding that such reunions should not end as a one-off occasion on worries that the window of opportunity for those waiting in line is fast closing down.
"Thousands (of separated family members) are passing away every year. There is nothing more urgent than this, so we are placing top priority on that matter," he said.
Government data shows that about 57,000 South Koreans, mostly in their 70s or older, remain alive and intend to meet their families who might be living in North Korea.
In its policy briefing to lawmakers earlier in the day, the unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said that it will have consultations with North Korea to hold family reunions on a regular basis. (Yonhap)