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War-torn Korean families to reunite briefly after 65 years

Aug 20, 2018 16:15 IST
War-torn Korean families to reunite briefly after 65 years

Around 180 families, who were torn apart by the 1950-53 Korean War, will be temporarily reunited in North Korea starting from August 20, 2018. The move comes after the two Koreas renewed exchanges in 2018 following the decades-long standoff over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.

Key Highlights

The reunions, the first in three years, will take place in the North’s tourist resort on Mount Kumgang, as agreed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in during their first summit in April.

The South Korean family members arrived at the coastal border city of Sokcho on August 19 to be briefed by officials on the reunion and for a brief health check-up, before crossing the border on August 20.

About 89 South Koreans crossed the military demarcation line to enter into North Korea on August 20. The group is scheduled to return to the South on August 22.

A group of 83 North Koreans will also be reunited with relatives who live in the South from August 24 to August 26 at the same resort.

Significance

As of July, about 56,000 people in the South were registered as separated family members. Among them, 41.2 percent are reported to be in their 80s and 21.4 percent to be in their 90s, as per government data.

The separated families are victims of a decades-long standoff between the two neighbouring nations, which escalated over the past several years with North Korea rapidly expanding its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

Background

South Korea has been calling for regular meetings between the separated families including using video conferences for years, but the reunion programs were cut short due to fragile relations with the North over its nuclear programmes that threaten the South.

However, during the summit with US President Donald Trump in June 2018, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to abandon his country’s nuclear programs if the US provided security guarantees.

Around 93 families from both sides of the border were initially scheduled for a three-day gathering from August 20, but four South Korean members canceled their trip to the North at the last minute due to health conditions, as per data by Red Cross.

The brief family reunions began in 1985 and as of July 2018, a total of 132,600 individuals are listed as separated families on both sides of the border.

About the Korean War

 War-torn Korean families to reunite briefly after 65 years The Korean War, which took place between 1950 and 53, was a war between North Korea and South Korea. It took place during the Cold War between the United States of America and the Soviet Union.

As a product of the Cold War, Korea was split into two sovereign states with their governments claiming to be the sole legitimate government of all of Korea and neither accepted the border as permanent.

The conflict escalated into a full-scale war when the North Korean forces, aided by China and the Soviet Union, crossed the 38th parallel, the boundary between the two Koreas and invaded the South on June 25, 1950.

The United Nations Security Council authorised the formation and dispatch of UN forces to South Korea to repel the North Korean invasion.

Twenty-one member countries of the United Nations eventually contributed to the UN force, with the United States providing around 90 per cent of the military personnel.

The following two years saw rapid fighting with Seoul witnessing a change of hands four times.

The fighting ended on July 27, 1953, when an armistice was signed. The agreement created the Korean Demilitarized Zone to separate North and South Korea and allowed the return of prisoners.

However, no peace treaty was signed. In April 2018, the leaders of North and South Korea met at the demilitarized zone and agreed to sign a treaty by the end of the year to formally end the Korean War.

 

 

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