S. Korea, U.S. discussing sanctions exemption for video reunions of separated families
SEOUL, Dec. 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is talking to the United States about a possible sanctions exemption for video reunions Seoul hopes to hold with North Korea for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, the head of the South's Red Cross said Wednesday.
Speaking at a peace forum in Seoul, Park Kyung-seo also said that he expects the issue will be resolved when the U.S. pointman on Pyongyang, Stephen Biegun, visits Seoul later this month for a meeting of the bilateral joint working group on North Korea.
Park also said the South and the North are at their final stage of coordinating the video reunions.
"We need a lot of things to hold video reunions, such as laying fiber-optic cables and setting up screens," Park told reporters, indicating a need for a sanctions exemption in order to provide the North with such equipment and facilities.
Biegun is expected to visit Seoul around Dec. 20, Park said.
President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed at their third summit in Pyongyang in September to cooperate in allowing their people to hold video-based reunions and exchange video messages with their families separated by the war.
Unification Minister Cho Myung-gyon also said Tuesday that such events can kick off early next year.
An official at Seoul's foreign ministry said earlier this week that another working-group session is likely to be held within this year, without giving further details. The allies launched the working group last month for "regular, systemic and formal" communication on North Korea policy.
"Around 3,000 to 4,000 members of the separated families die every year and there are some 57,000 people waiting for reunions," Park said, adding the video reunion events should promptly take place.
Since the first-ever summit of their leaders in 2000, the two Koreas have held 21 rounds of face-to-face family reunion events, including the most recent one in August.
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