SEOUL, March 6 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Thursday rejected South Korea's offer to hold talks between Red Cross officials to discuss the topic on regularly holding family reunions, Seoul's Unification Ministry said.
Pyongyang sent a notice in the name of its Red Cross chairman Thursday morning, saying that atmosphere is not created to hold working-level contacts between Red Cross officials to discuss the family reunion issue, according to the ministry.
Given the current inter-Korean relations, such significant humanitarian issue as the regularization of family reunion cannot be discussed through the Red Cross channel, the notice said, indicating Pyongyang's willingness to discuss the issue through senior-level dialogue.
The two Koreas have agreed to hold another senior-level talks when both sides feel comfortable after holding the vice ministerial-level dialogue in mid-February, the first of such kind in around seven years.
Pyongyang's rejection came a day after Seoul made such proposal to hold working-level contacts between Red Cross officials on March 12 at the Peace House, an administrative building in the South Korean side of the border village of Panmunjeom.
Seoul's proposal came as a follow-up to President Park Geun-hye 's recent calls for such discussion. Park proposed last Saturday to the DPRK regularizing face-to-face reunions at a ceremony marking the 1919 nationwide uprising against the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule.
Park said that time is running out for the separated families due to old age, noting that at least 6,000 people should be allowed to meet their relatives per year to let the war-divided families meet their relatives at least once before they die.
The South Korean Unification Ministry expressed regrets over the rejection, saying that the issue on the separated families should be placed before any other inter-Korean issues without connecting it to others.
Millions of Koreans have been separated since the three-year Korean War ended in armistice, not peace treaty, in 1953. Around 22,000 Koreans met their long-lost relatives at the 19 rounds of family reunions from 1985 to 2014.
The 19th round of the six-day family reunion ended on Feb. 25 in the DPRK's scenic resort of Mount Kumgang. Hundreds of Koreans met their long-lost relatives for the first time in six decades as they have been banned from exchanging letters and phone calls since 1953.
According to the government data, more than 70,000 South Koreans have been on the waiting list for family reunion since 1988, with all the applicants expected to pass away within 20 years from now due to old age.