A North Korean Red Cross delegation left the South Korean capital to return to Pyongyang today after the two sides agreed to exchange a limited number of separated family members as part of an exchange of folk art troupes later this summer.
If the visit takes place as scheduled, it will be the first exchange of families since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Many families have been separated for even more decades. The visit is to take place on or around Aug. 15, the 40th anniversary of Japan's surrender ending World War II and its 35-year colonial rule over Korea.
In the two working-level sessions last night and early today, both sides agreed in principle to the visit and agreed to hold another meeting July 15 in the border truce village of Panmunjom to work out the procedures for the exchange.
South Korea proposed that the exchange include 100 to 500 members of separate families as a start for the estimated 10 million families separated by the post-World War II division of the country.
The agreement came during the two days of Red Cross talks here, the first since they were suspended 12 years ago, on ways to reunite the separated family members. Both sides also agreed to hold a ninth session on family reunification in the North Korean capital on Aug. 27.
[In Washington, a State Department spokesman said the United States shared the view of both the North and South Korean delegations that "encouraging progress was made," citing the cultural exchange in August as one example. "We hope the flexibility and good will demonstrated at the meeting will carry on to further rounds when both sides come to grips with the specific issues that stalemated the Red Cross talks in the early 1970s," the spokesman said.]