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North Korea Cancels Plans For Cross-Border Family Reunions

South Korean Cho Jang-geum, 81, weeps as she fills out an application to reunite with family members who live in North Korea, at the headquarters of the Korean Red Cross in Seoul Saturday. North Korea announced today that it is indefinitely postponing the reunions of families who were separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. The meetings were to take place in the coming week.
Park Dong-ju

A chance for families in South and North Korea to meet their long-lost relatives has been put off indefinitely, as North Korea canceled reunions that were to take place in the coming week. A South Korean official called the decision "inhumane" Saturday.

"The North's postponement shattered the thrill and hopes of nearly 200 families overnight and deserves denunciation as an inhumane act," Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eyi-do said, according to The Korea Herald.

NPR's Jason Strother reports from Seoul, for our Newscast unit:

"The resumption of inter-Korean family reunions was seen as a step toward reconciliation. But Pyongyang says due to South Korea's conservative policies, separated families will have to wait indefinitely.

"The South Korean Red Cross says each year, thousands of people die who were on the waiting list to meet lost loved ones. These are Koreans who were separated when the peninsula was permanently divided during the Korean War 60 years ago.

"Earlier this week, the two Koreas reopened a joint factory complex in the North."

In announcing its decision, North Korea also put off a meeting that was meant to discuss reopening Mount Kumgang, a mountain resort that has hosted the family reunions, to tourists from the South.

As The Korea Times reports, "The divided Koreas have held 18 temporary reunions since a landmark summit between their leaders in 2000, bringing together more than 20,000 family members who had not seen each other since the war. The last reunions were held in 2010."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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