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South Korea calls for reunions of separated families

06 January 2014, 11:20

Seoul - South Korea's president called on Monday for resuming reunions of families separated by war, saying it was a chance to improve strained ties between the rival Koreas.

The call comes amid lingering tensions on the Korean Peninsula following Pyongyang's fiery rhetoric and threats of nuclear wars last spring. The two Koreas had planned to hold family reunions in September for the first time in three years but Pyongyang cancelled them at the last minute.

President Park Geun-hye told a televised news conference that she wants the reunions to take place on the occasion of the Lunar New Year's Day later this month to "heal wounded hearts".

She said the she hopes the two Koreas would find a new momentum for better ties with the reunions.

Millions of people have been separated since an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War has never been changed to a peace treaty. The reunions are highly emotional as most applicants are in their 70s or older and are eager to see their loves ones before they die.

Conciliatory gestures

The two Koreas bar ordinary citizens from exchanging letters, phone calls or e-mail.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week called for improving ties in his New Year's Day speech that included a warning of a nuclear war.

South Korean officials responded by saying North Korea must first take nuclear disarmament steps and questioned the sincerity of Kim's overture.

North Korea issued similar conciliatory gestures in its New Year's Day message last year before it conducted its third nuclear test In February and made a torrent of threats to launch nuclear strikes against Seoul and Washington in the spring.

Park said that North Korea should act with sincerity. "Last year, North Korea talked about improvement in South-North Korean ties in its New Year's Day message but you know very well how it indeed acted", she said.

- AP


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