Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies ) - The South Korean government is proposing that the reunification of families separated by the Korean War be stabilized on "a regular basis". Speaking during the celebrations for the Korean independence from Japanese rule - which took place on 1st March 1919 - President Park Geun - hye said: "There are separated families in North Korea as well. I believe North Korea should also ease the anguish and pain of its people".
Family reunions were held
for the first time in 1985. They were a "goodwill gesture" by the two
Korean governments, but were never formally institutionalised. To take advantage of this opportunity, South
Koreans who can prove that they have a living relative on the other side of the
border must register with the South Korean Ministry of Unification. When the programme started, 130,000people
applied; at present, only 71,000 or so are still alive. The last
round of meetings took place February 20 to 25, 2014.
The government of North Korea has not yet responded to Park's proposal. According to several analysts, the regime led by Kim Jong-un is reluctant to increase the number of meetings between separated family members because he fears that greater exposure to South Korean lifestyle and tales of life in a democratic country could loosen his grip on power.
Park's appeal represents a breakthrough in inter-Korean talks. Since her election, the president - leader of the Conservative Party - has made it clear that the South "will continue its military and economic programs", "despite the threats from the North" . In fact, the annual military exercises between South Korea and the United States are taking place this week, which Pyongyang has repeatedly called it a "provocation".
During these "war games", the North's army launched six short-range missiles within its territorial waters as "an experiment in war". Washington has asked the Stalinist regime to "stop these hostile activities", but several experts assure that these launches "do not represent a real threat. It is simply a means to assert its position".