[EDITORIALS]Hope for divided families

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[EDITORIALS]Hope for divided families

The two Koreas ended their Red Cross talks Sunday; the delegations agreed to build permanent meeting places for separated families and to allow letter exchanges. The South and the North also agreed to confirm the whereabouts of the missing in the Korean War, creating an overarching framework to resolve systematically the issue of families that have been separated since the Korean War.

The two Koreas agreed to open a meeting place not only at the North's Mount Geumgang on the east coast, but also on the west coast near the checkpoint on the Gyeongui railway. It is promising that the two sides said they will jointly build the Mount Geumgang meeting place first and then hold reunion meetings on a regular basis after completing the structure.

The North also officially raised the issue of the whereabouts of the missing in the Korean War, breaking its long silence on the matter. That is a meaningful step.

Obstacles to implementation of the agreement still remain. Many will complain that separated families will have to meet in North Korea until the Gyeongui railway is reconnected. But let's remember that that issue and that of correspondence between families were first raised in 1975. The agreement is indeed an accomplishment. The number of defectors from North Korea has soared and information technology has improved rapidly since then, perhaps everywhere in the world except across the DMZ.

Many have urged agreement on family issues because most of the people involved are now aged and frail. In terms of humanitarian principles, people have demanded that separated family issues should be resolved before the first generation of those families dies out.

Seoul must do its best to implement this weekend's agreements so that reunion meetings and exchanges of letters among the separated families will take place continuously, not just sporadically and when politics allows. The government should show that it is making serious efforts to overcome the tragic national division.

North Korea should also understand that Sunday's agreements have heightened international society's expectations about North Korea's open-door policy and hopes that the reclusive regime can be more trusted. Pyeongyang, therefore, should also do its best to implement the agreements as soon as possible.
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