The Unification Ministry said Sunday that about 49-hundred applicants of inter-Korean family reunions died of old age last year alone.
As of the end of last year, some 133-thousand-200 South Koreans were registered with the country's Red Cross as hopeful participants in the reunion program for families separated by the Korean War and about 56-thousand of them are still alive.
According to the ministry, four-thousand-914 South Korean applicants died last year, with 322 dying in December.
The annual deaths of the applicants are steadily increasing from three-thousand-378 in 2016 to three-thousand-795 in 2017. The number for last year marks one-point-45 times larger than the 2016 figure.
In the inter-Korean summit in September last year, the two Koreas agreed to hold reunions through video conferencing and seek other inter-Korean exchange programs for the separated families, but have yet to arrange any event due to protracted negotiations with the United States regarding sanctions against North Korea.