Park Kyung-seo, the head of the South Korean Red Cross, said Saturday that he made the agreement with his North Korean counterpart during their talks on the sidelines of a meeting of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War at the North’s Mount Kumgang resort.
“I discussed with Park Yong-il, chief of the North Korean delegation, to hold one more round of family reunions within this year in the same way with the 21st reunion event,” Park told reporters. “We decided to discuss the date and other details in working-level talks.”
|Park Kyung-seo, the head of the South Korean Red Cross, speaks to reporters at Mount Kumgang in North Korea on Saturday. (Yonhap)|
About 600 South Koreans, including members of over 160 families, participated in two rounds of reunions for the past week.
The second group, comprised of 326 people, was set to return to the South on Sunday
“The size of the 22nd reunion will be similar to that of the current one,” the South Korean official said. “I think it will possibly take place at the end of October, or later considering weather and various other conditions.”
The two Koreas have reached a consensus on the need to hold additional reunions within this year, he stressed.
|Park Kyung-seo, right, head of the South Korean Red Cross, toasts during a lucheon hosted by North Korea at its eastern resort of Kumgang on Aug. 20, for participants in the 21st temporary reunions of families separated for decades in the Korean War. (Yonhap)|
“About 3,000 to 4,000 separated family members pass away per year. In the next seven to 10 years, it would become difficult to hold reunions of separated families in the current way.”
Park said he is putting top priority on arranging reunions of separated families as a person who has long been engaged in humanitarian aid to North Korea.
He pledged to seek ways to more actively use the permanent meeting place for separated families in the resort to prevent more elderly Koreans from dying without having a chance to see their long-lost family members.
The latest reunion event, the first in two years and 10 months, came amid a thaw in inter-Korean relations. In April, the leaders of South and North Korea agreed to strive together to resolve humanitarian challenges arising from decades of division. (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap)