SEOUL, South Korea – Red Cross delegates from the rival Koreas begun talks Wednesday on holding reunions of families separated since the Korean War ended in the early 1950s.
The meeting was arranged after North Korea last month agreed to resume the humanitarian reunion program that has been stalled since late 2010. South Korea has proposed the reunions take place later this month but North Korea hasn't responded.
The three-member Red Cross delegations from the Koreas met at a border village and their main morning session ended less than an hour after it started, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry. The delegates were to meet again in the afternoon, a ministry release said.
A key obstacle to the reunion's quick resumption is upcoming annual springtime South Korea-U.S. military drills that North Korea calls a rehearsal for a northward invasion, analysts say. The allies say the drills are defensive in nature.
North Korea has recently ratcheted down its typical harsh rhetoric against South Korea and called for better ties between the countries. Analysts say Pyongyang needs improved ties with Seoul to help lure foreign investment and aid. Last spring, tension on the Korean Peninsula spiked as Pyongyang issued a torrent of threats to launch nuclear strikes against Seoul and Washington.
The two Koreas share one of the world's most heavily fortified borders and their ordinary citizens are not allowed to exchange phone calls, letter and emails.
About 22,000 Koreans have had brief family reunions — 18,000 in person and the others by video — during a period of detente, but no one has a second chance to meet their long-lost relatives.