10/04/2017, 15.05
KOREA
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Seoul appeals to Pyongyang: allow 'separated families' to meet

Separated since the 1950-53 war, they are losing hope of meeting again before they die. Since 2000, 20 meetings have been held, the last in 2015. South Korea continues to keep the door open to dialogue. Observe agreements signed 10 years ago.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - South Korean Minister for Unity Cho Myoung-gyon has asked Pyongyang to resume the practice of reuniting "separated families". At the end of the 1950-53 war their members found themselves divided on both sides of the peninsula without the possibility of seeing each other again. The request is part of Seoul's attempts to reopen dialogue, in the midst of growing tensions and threats with the United States.

After the first summit in 2000, 20 "reunifications" took place during which Koreans from the North and South could spend a few days together with their relatives across the border. But there have been no other meetings  since October 2015: they were born as a "goodwill" gesture by the two governments and have never become institutional.

Last July, South Korea proposed a new round of meetings without receiving a response. Meanwhile, separated family members, older and fewer, are losing hope of seeing each other again before they die.

Seoul keeps the door open to dialogue with neighbouring Pyongyang at a time when verbal confrontations with the United States and North Korean missile texts threaten an imminent nuclear crisis. Today the Ministry for Reunification called on the North to respect the reconciliation agreement signed during the second summit (October 2-4, 2007) by then-presidents Roh Moo-huyn and Kim Jong-il.

For their part, the North Korean media commemorate the anniversary, accusing the South Korean "puppet" of being responsible for breaking the tensions.

On the American front, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis's voice differs from President Donald Trump's bellicose tones after he recently called attempted dialogue by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson "a waste of time". Mattis states that the Defense Department "fully supports" the diplomatic efforts of the secretary, although he states that there is no "strong divergence" from Trump's position.

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