|People living in North Korea hold hands of their separated family members in the South while bidding farewell following a three-day reunion event at Mount Geumgang Hotel in the North, Aug. 26, 2018. / Joint Press Corps|
By Kim Rahn
The United Nations' human rights office has urged the two Koreas to allow meetings and contact between families separated by the Korean War (1950-53).
The Seoul branch of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called for the South and the North's joint efforts on Facebook, Friday, marking the International Day of Families.
"About 65 percent of the separated family members who are still alive are 80+ years old. The U.N. Human Rights Office strongly urges both Koreas to allow permanent contact between separated families, through meetings, letters, phone communications and video messaging," it wrote.
In an August 2019 report on North Korea's human rights situation, the U.N. made similar calls. "Take the steps necessary, in collaboration with the Republic of Korea, to resolve the issues of family separation as a matter of priority and ensure that permanent mechanisms are in place for relatives of both countries to enable them to remain in touch and have periodic reunifications, keeping in mind that such reunion events should become routine and include many more people, including affected Koreans worldwide," the report said.
The meetings of separated families began in 2000 and the 21st round, which was the last one, took place in August 2018. In the Pyongyang Declaration announced following the third summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in September 2018, two Koreas agreed to open a facility on Mount Geumgang in the North for regular meetings of separated families as soon as possible. They also agreed to seek video meetings and video message exchanges of the families first.
However, these agreements have not made much progress as denuclearization talks between North Korea and the U.S. have been stalled and inter-Korean relations have also faced an impasse.
According to the unification ministry data on people in the South who have applied for meetings of separated families, 39.6 percent were in their 80s and 26 percent, in their 90s.