North and South Korea Are Preparing to Reunite Families Divided by War
Jun 23, 2018, 01:31
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has urged North Korea to present actionable plans on how it will scrap its nuclear program, and for the United States to swiftly take unspecified corresponding measures.
It's safe to say that these reunions are going to be highly emotional with most of the participants (if not all) being elderly people who were around at the time of the country's split.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed during a summit in April to hold the family reunions about August 15, the anniversary of the Korean Peninsula's independence from Japanese colonial rule at the end of World War II in 1945.
South Korean government figures from May showed 132,124 citizens had registered since 1988 to be included in a lottery for reunion visits.
"Sleep well tonight!" Trump tweeted on June 13, the day after he and Kim met in Singapore. Their two summits have opened various channels of peace talks between the countries.
Observers generally agree that Kim's visit to China this time is apparently meant to brief Xi on the outcome of his summit with Trump but added that he could enlist support from China ahead of talks on how fast it will have to give up its nuclear weapons program.
The reunion program began in earnest after a historic inter-Korean summit in 2000 and they were initially held annually, but strained cross-border relations have made them rare.
"The whole world is marvelling at the awesome developments between the North and South", said Pak Yong Il, the leader of the North Korean delegation at the talks.
Most died without the chance to see or hear from their relatives on the other side of the border, across which all civilian communication is banned. Almost 20,000 Koreans have participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face temporary reunions held between the countries since 2000.
South Korean officials have called for the visits between separated families to resume as a "humanitarian and human rights issue", especially since many individuals are now in their 80s. None of the past participants has had a second reunion.
Asked on Wednesday if North Korea had done anything toward denuclearisation since the summit, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters: "No, I'm not aware of that. obviously, it's the very front end of a process". "President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most risky problem". An advance party will also travel from South Korea five days before the event to help with preparations.
There had been expectations that Friday's meeting could get contentious if North Korean officials reiterated the country's demand for the return of 12 North Korean restaurant workers in return for allowing reunions.
Stella Kim reported from Seoul, and Alastair Jamieson reported from London.
Ties have warmed as relations between North Korea and the United States have improved after Kim met U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore last week in the two nations' first summit.
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