SEOUL, South Korea - Reunions of families separated since the Korean War will resume in August as part of fast-moving engagement between two Koreas that has already led to breakthroughs including a military hotline between the two countries, Red Cross envoys said Friday after meetings in North Korea.
The reunions will take place over six days beginning Aug. 20, the first such event since 2015 to bring together families divided for nearly seven decades. About 100 people from each side will take part in the gatherings on North Korea’s Mount Kumgang, a resort about 10 miles north of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
Setting a clear plan for the reunions had been a priority of the government of South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in. He accompanied his mother to a past reunion in 2004, when he was serving in a previous government that sought engagement with North Korea.
But a joint statement by national Red Cross delegations from North and South Korea did not touch on other sensitive issues that have complicated family reunion attempts in recent years. They include North Korea’s demand for the return of 12 North Korean restaurant workers who left China in 2016 and resettled in South Korea. Seoul claims the women willingly defected. South Korea, meanwhile, seeks the return of six people detained in the North.
Nearly 20,000 people have taken part in 20 rounds of reunions held between the countries since 2000, but plans have been shelved in recent years by the South to protest nuclear and missile tests by the regime of Kim Jong Un. At the same time, the urgency for the reunions has grown as the generation that endured the Korean War dwindles.
The talks between the two Koreas parallel exchanges between the United States and North Korea, capped by a June 12 summit in which President Donald Trump and Kim held talks in Singapore. The two Koreas have started a dialogue on a range of initiatives that include opening high-level military channels and planning more joint sports teams.