SEOUL, South Korea (Reuters) — South Korea will push for the return of hundreds of elderly prisoners of war held in North Korea for up to half a century, local media reported on Monday.
Seoul is already set to return 62 former North Korean prisoners under a deal signed in late June by Red Cross officials from the two Koreas. North and South Korea are still technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce.
"The government agreed to send back the 62 unconverted Communist spies to Pyongyang partly because we wanted to quicken the return of the South Korean prisoners of war," the English-language Korea Times quoted Unification Minister Park Jae-kyu as saying.
The return of South Korean POWs in the North will be one of the major topics of South-North ministerial talks scheduled for August 29-31, the Korea Times reported in its early Tuesday edition.
According to a Defence Ministry report, there are 343 South Korean POWs still alive in the communist North.
The issue has drawn sharp criticism in the South because Seoul agreed to return the North Koreans without winning a similar promise from Pyongyang.
The agreement for repatriation followed the first-ever summit between leaders of the two countries in mid-June.
The summit also led to emotionally supercharged family reunions last week, with 100 families from each Korea meeting family members separated before and during the traumatic events of the Korean War.