Minister demands budget increase to resume video reunions of separated families

SEOUL, Nov. 6 (Yonhap) -- Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon on Tuesday requested that next year's budget for the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund be increased by 8.5 billion won (US$7.56 million) to facilitate inter-Korean family reunions via video.

Cho made the request during a plenary session of the National Assembly's Special Committee on Budget and Accounts.

"The resumption of video reunions of separated families would cost about 8.5 billion won. We had not expected the inclusion of family reunions via video in the Pyongyang Joint Declaration in the earlier process of budget compilation," Cho said, calling for an increase in the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund budget through further parliamentary debate.

According to the Pyongyang Joint Declaration signed between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the North's capital on Sept. 19, the two Koreas agreed to first work out through Red Cross talks the issue of holding video reunions and of allowing families to exchange video messages.

The leaders also agreed to open a permanent meeting facility for separated families at Mount Kumgang on the North's east coast "at an early date."

"The video reunion systems are spread at 13 locations nationwide. They have not been used for 10 years and are now in need of repairs and renovations. Including those expenses, an additional budget of 8.5 billion is needed," the minister said.

In late August, South and North Korea held weeklong reunions of hundreds of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War at Mount Kumgang in accordance with an inter-Korean summit agreement reached in April.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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