S. Korea selects candidates for family reunions

S. Korea selects candidates for family reunions
A South Korean official (R) greets a North Korean negotiation team for Red Cross.

SEOUL - South Korea's Red Cross on Saturday announced a list of 500 potential candidates for reunions next month with their North Korean relatives separated for decades by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The list, which was generated by a computer taking age and family background into account, was released a day after the two Koreas agreed to go ahead with the first family reunions in three years.

The reunion programme was suspended after the North's shelling of a South Korean border island in November 2010, and its resumption marks a symbolic but important step.

The reunions will be held on September 25-30 at the North's Mount Kumgang resort.

South Korean Red Cross chief Ko Kyung-Suk said his office would speed up the selection of the final 100 candidates, citing the tight schedule.

The 500 candidates would be shortened to 250 by Thursday after interviews and medical exams, with the final list of 100 people announced on September 16.

Part of the selection process is ensuring candidates still have living relatives on the other side.

The push to restart the reunions was initiated last week by South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, who urged Pyongyang to "open its heart" and agree to kickstart the programme in time for next month's Chuseok holiday - when Korean families traditionally gather together.

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