Unification minister vows to push for reunion of separated families despite N. Korean provocations

SEOUL, South Korea's point man on North Korea said Saturday the government will keep pushing for the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, saying Pyongyang's provocations will not deter Seoul's drive. Kim made the remark after attending an annual gathering of separated families and others who were born in North Korea but ended up south of the border following the war. To mark the Lunar New Year, they came to pay their respects to their ancestors and family members in North Korea by taking bows in that direction from the border town of Paju, Gyeonggi Province. "We will not give up on our pursuit of fundamental solutions to the problems regarding separated families and abductees," Kim said. "The government will not be affected by any type of provocation or action from North Korea." Kim said Seoul will remain open to dialogue with Pyongyang on humanitarian matters and added, "North Korea must respond seriously without any political considerations whatsoever." Kim said any effort to addres s inter-Korean humanitarian issues must begin with the restoration of an inter-Korean liaison communication channel, while also blaming Pyongyang for the strained ties between the Koreas. "We urge North Korea to normalize that communication channel, which it unilaterally cut off in April last year," Kim said. "To separated families, who suffered through the war and division on the Korean Peninsula, the recent series of actions taken by North Korea is absolutely deplorable. North Korea must halt provocations that threaten the survival of our people and must not ignore the pains of separated families." In recent years, aging members of separated families in South Korea have died without having a chance to meet with their long-lost relatives in North Korea amid strained inter-Korean ties. The number of surviving separated family members came to 39,881 as of the end of November 2023, with 65.6 percent of the total aged 80 and older, government data showed. The divided Koreas have held 21 rounds of reunions si nce the landmark summit of their leaders in 2000, bringing together more than 20,000 family members who had not seen each other since the war. The two sides last staged temporary family reunions in 2018. In 2022, South Korea proposed holding talks with North Korea on family reunions, but the North has yet to respond to the offer. Source: Yonhap News Agency