North and South Korea discuss rare reunion for families

In this file photo taken on 22 August 2013, South Korean Red Cross officials talk on phones as they receive applications for an expected inter-Korean family reunion programme at the Red Cross office in Seoul Image copyright AFP
Image caption Red Cross officials in South Korea have been receiving applications for the possible reunion

North and South Korea are conducting talks on organising a rare reunion for families separated by the Korean War.

The talks are being held at the border village of Panmunjom by Red Cross officials from both sides.

Thousands of families have been separated with little contact made since 1953 when hostilities ended.

The sporadic reunions depend hugely on the state of relations, and the North is known to have cancelled a few. The last one was held in February 2014.

Each meeting gets deluged by tens of thousands of applications from South Korea, but only a tiny percentage get selected. The last meeting saw 100 from each side attending, in a hugely emotional event.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many of those who attend the rare reunions are in their 70s or 80s

The discussions come after a tense few weeks on the Korean peninsula, which saw exchanges of fire at the border and the evacuation of thousands of South Koreans from the border region.

The tensions began when a border landmine injured two South Korean soldiers - South Korea responded by broadcasting propaganda messages into the North.

The two sides reached an agreement to defuse the situation after marathon talks.

The North, which denied planted the mine, agreed to express "regret" about the incident - though later clarified this was an expression of sympathy not an apology.

The two countries remain technically at war as the Korean War only ended in an armistice.

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