Seoul, 6 January
South Korea’s president called today for resuming reunions of families separated by war, expressing her hopes that the humanitarian program would improve strained ties between the rival Koreas.
The call comes amid lingering tensions on the Korean Peninsula following Pyongyang’s fiery rhetoric and threats of nuclear wars last spring. The two Koreas had planned to hold family reunions in September for the first time in three years but Pyongyang cancelled them at the last minute.
President Park Geun-hye told a televised news conference that she wants the reunions to take place on the occasion of the Lunar New Year’s Day later this month to “heal wounded hearts.”
She said she hopes the two Koreas would find a new momentum for better ties with the reunions. She said her government plans to expand civilian exchanges with North Korea and approve the shipments of more humanitarian assistance to North Korea.
Millions of people have been separated since an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War has never been changed to a peace treaty. The reunions are highly emotional as most applicants are in their 70s or older and are eager to see their loved ones before they die. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week called for improved ties in his New Year’s Day speech that included a warning of a nuclear war. The South responded by saying North Korea must first take nuclear disarmament steps and questioned the sincerity of Kim’s overture.