Two Koreas Agree Dates to Resume Reunions of War-Torn Families

The two Koreas agreed to resume family reunions later this month for the first time in more than three years after the North called for improved relations before annual U.S.-South Korean military drills.

Red Cross delegates from the two countries set Feb. 20-25 as the dates for family gatherings at a mountain resort in the North, the Unification Ministry said in an e-mailed statement.

South Korea “expects this agreement to be implemented without failure and produce an opportunity to resolve the pain and suffering of separation,” the ministry said. The last attempt at reunions collapsed in September when the North canceled the meetings days before they were due to start.

The agreement reflects better ties called for by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in his New Year speech. While the North had earlier this year rejected South Korean President Park Geun Hye’s call for family reunions, citing military drills, the regime has toned down its rhetoric slamming Park.

The reunions will probably precede or coincide with Key Resolve exercises that are normally conducted between February and April. The dates haven’t been announced for this year’s drills.

Millions of people were separated during the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a truce and without a peace treaty that may have allowed for normalized relations. Koreans in the two countries are barred from traveling across the border or communicating by phone or mail. About 4,300 families have been reunited through government efforts. One hundred people from each country were chosen for the new round of reunions to be held at the Mount Geumgang resort, the ministry said.

Tensions between the two countries remained high for much of last year. Kim executed his uncle Jang Song Thaek in December in the latest purge since he took power in late 2011. The country conducted its third nuclear test in February last year.

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