S Korea proposes talks with North on family reunion

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea on Monday proposed a fresh round of high-level talks with North Korea to discuss another possible reunion for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The first round held in February had marked the highest-level official contact between the two Koreas for seven years and led to a family reunion later the same month.

The South's Unification Ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, said it was proposing a meeting at the border truce village of Panmunjom on Aug 19.

"We said we would like to discuss issues of mutual interest, including the family reunion during the Chuseok holiday," it said in a statement.

The traditional harvest festival falls on Sept 8 this year.

The last family reunion - held at a North Korean mountain resort Feb 20-25 - was the first for more than three years.

Millions of people were separated during the 1950-53 conflict that sealed the division between the two Koreas.

Most died without having a chance to see or hear from their families on the other side of the border, across which all civilian communication is banned.

About 70,000 South Koreans - more than half of them aged over 70 - are still wait-listed to join the rare reunion event.

Seoul had requested talks on a further reunion in March, but Pyongyang declined.

The always-volatile relations across the North-South border have been tense in recent months, with Pyongyang angered by South Korea's annual joint military exercises with the United States.

Another joint drill is set to begin the day before the Panmunjom meeting proposed by Seoul.