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Seoul to encourage private-level exchanges between separated families

All News 14:58 December 31, 2019

SEOUL, Dec. 31 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will encourage separated families to seek private exchanges with their relatives in North Korea, the unification ministry said Tuesday, as official reunions and exchanges are unlikely to resume anytime soon due to the deadlocked inter-Korean relations.

It is part of the government's three-year plan to facilitate exchanges between families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War at a time when Pyongyang remains unresponsive to Seoul's repeated offers for talks.

Under the plan, members of separated families will be provided with financial support from the government when they seek reunions with their North Korean relatives in a third country or other forms of exchange.

The two Koreas agreed in their September summit last year to open a permanent reunion center for divided families and to hold video meetings or exchange video messages. But the impasse in nuclear talks between the North and the United States has hindered the events from actually taking place.

"The plan is part of our efforts to seek an alternative by encouraging private-level exchanges when the consultations between the authorities don't work well," a ministry official told reporters.

Since the first-ever summit of their leaders in 2000, the Koreas have held 21 rounds of face-to-face family reunion events, including the most recent one in August last year.

Among the total of 133,365 South Koreans registered as members of separated families, only 52,997 were alive as of November, highlighting the urgency of one of the most pressing humanitarian matters for the two Koreas.

Among the survivors, 63.4 percent were aged 80 or older.

In this file photo, taken on Aug. 24, 2018, Ryang Cha-ok (L) of North Korea meets with her South Korean sisters at a hotel at the North's Kumgang Mountain resort on the east coast as part of inter-Korean family reunions. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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