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Seoul urges Pyongyang to facilitate family reunions

South Korea said on Monday that it is making efforts to resolve the issue of reunions for family members separated six decades ago by the Korean War, urging North Korea to help facilitate them as well.

"The family reunions are an issue that must be resolved as a top priority, and the government is pushing to resolve it regardless of political hurdles," Vice Unification Minister Um Jong-sik said during a memorial service for ancestors held by a group of family members separated by the war.

The vice minister also called on Pyongyang to take steps toward resolving the issue, which has been stalled due to heightened tensions after last year's two deadly attacks by the North.

The two Koreas held more than a dozen rounds of reunions after a landmark summit in 2000, bringing together tens of thousands of family members whom have not seen each other since the war.

The two sides have usually staged the reunions around Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving holiday that is celebrated in both countries, and other important national holidays.

There are no direct means of contact between the civilians of the two countries, which remain divided by a heavily fortified border.

Millions of Koreans have been separated from their family members since the war, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. More than 21,000 have been reunited either face-to-face or via video since the 2000 summit.

But tensions persist between the two Koreas over Pyongyang's two deadly attacks on the South last year that killed 50 South Koreans. The North has refused to take responsibility for the attacks.

Hopes are rising since Yu Woo-ik, a former ambassador to China, was recently named to replace hard-line minister Hyun In-taek. Yu has vowed to adopt a flexible policy toward the communist neighbor. (Yonhap News)


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