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SKorean Minister proposes talks with North

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Seoul: South Korea’s Unification Minister publicly proposed talks with North Korea to discuss the issue of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, stressing the urgency of resolving it Thursday.

Kwon Young-se issued a statement offering inter-Korean dialogue on the eve of the Chuseok holiday, which is one of the biggest annual celebrations for both South and North Koreans, reports Yonhap news agency.

He pointed out that many of those with family members on the other side of the heavily fortified border are in their 80s or 90s.

“(We) have to resolve the problem before the word itself of ‘separated family’ disappears,” he said. “(The two sides) should map out swift and fundamental measures, using all available methods.”

He added on-and-off reunion events involving a small number of families are not enough and stressed that his government is ready to hold dialogue with the North anytime, anywhere and regardless of format, Yonhap reported.

He said the South will “proactively” take the North’s hopes into account in terms of a date, venue, agenda and format of the talks, as it is attempting to deliver a formal notice of the dialogue offer through the inter-Korean liaison hotline to Ri Son-gwon, the head of the North’s ruling party’s United Front Department tasked with handling inter-Korean relations.

As of end-August, there were 43,746 surviving South Koreans who had registered with the government to request it search for their separated family members in the North, with 37,264, or 85 per cent of the total, aged 70 or older, according to the ministry’s data, the news agency said.

Since their first-ever summit in 2000, the two Koreas have held 21 rounds of face-to-face family reunion events, with the last one taking place in August 2018.

They have a track record of organizing family reunion events on the occasion of the Chuseok holiday to celebrate the autumn harvest. This year’s Chuseok falls on Saturday and the four-day holiday begins Friday.

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