Millions were separated across a border when fighting in the Korean War suddenly came to an end in 1953.
South Korea has proposed talks with North Korea to discuss how to help the thousands of families who were separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, in its latest direct overture to Pyongyang since President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May.
Unification Minister Kwon Young-se extended the invitation to dialogue on the eve of Chuseok, one of the biggest holidays for Koreans on both sides of the border, describing the separation of families as part of a “painful reality”.
Seoul is willing to consider Pyongyang’s preferences in deciding the date, venue, agenda and format of the talks, he said.
“We hope that responsible officials of the two sides will meet in person as soon as possible for a candid discussion on humanitarian matters including the issue of separated families,” Kwon said.
Millions of people have been unable to visit their family members in the other’s territory since 1953, when an armistice brought the fighting in the Korean War to an end.
Decades later, most have no word on whether their loved ones on the other side of the heavily-fortified border are still alive.
The governments of the two Koreas have occasionally allowed brief reunions — the last one took place North Korea in 2018 — but most separated families have no idea whether their loved ones are still alive.
It is unclear whether North Korea, which has already rejected Yoon’s proposal for aid in return for denuclearisationwill accept the latest offer.
The issue of family reunions has become increasingly fraught as the decades have passed.
Many of those who were separated are now in their 80s and older and eager to reunite with their long-lost relatives before they die.