North and South Korea to resume family reunions next month

A South Korean official (R) greets a North Korean negotiation team for Red Cross talks as the team crosses the border line at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas on 23 August 2013 Korean Red Cross officials met at the border village of Panmunjom

North and South Korea have agreed reunions of families separated by the Korean War in 1950-53 will resume next month, officials in Seoul have said.

They said 100 people from each side would meet on 25-30 September at the North's Mount Kumgang resort.

It would be the first time such meetings have taken place for three years.

The two sides remain technically at war because the conflict ended in an armistice and not a peace deal.

"With today's agreement, we set the stage for regular family reunions," South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-Suk said.

South Korean officials added that video conferencing would be held for 40 families from each side who are too weak to travel to Kumgang.

The agreement came after Korean Red Cross officials met at the border village of Panmunjom.

Last week, the two countries reached a deal on re-opening a joint industrial zone.

'Never been picked'

Many families were separated at the end of the war by the dividing of the peninsula.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye last week called for the resumption of the reunions, urging North Korea to "open its heart".

In South Korea, more than 70,000 people have registered for the reunions.

Kim Kyung-ryun said that she had been trying for decades to reunite with her parents and siblings in the North.

"So many reunions have passed, and I've never been picked," she told the BBC.

"So I wonder whether my chance will ever come, and I'm just a bit too tired to worry about it now."

The current talks are the latest signs of tensions easing on the peninsula.

In April, North Korea withdrew its workers from the Kaesong joint industrial zone, angered by the expansion of UN sanctions after its 12 February nuclear test and annual US-South Korea military drills.

A deal to re-open the zone was reached after six rounds of talks ended unsuccessfully.

Meanwhile, it was reported that a North Korean man had defected after he was found on South Korea's Gyodong Island.

It was not immediately known how he had crossed the border in stormy weather. South Korean officials said he was now being questioned.

Defections by crossing the border via land and sea is said to be rare, and most are made by North Koreans entering another country before going to South Korea.

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