In 1953, North and South Koreans signed an armistice, which brought the Korean War to an end and cleared the way for formal peace negotiations.

Sixty-five years have passed and a formal peace treaty is yet to be brokered. 

For the generation of South Koreans that lived and suffered through the war, hope for reunification has loomed large but, as that population ages and dwindles, many in the generations that follow say their links to North Korea are not as strong and they prioritise domestic issues over reunification.

However, historic and fast-moving developments in the last few months have breathed new life into hopes that North and South Korea might enjoy a friendlier and even unified future.

In 2017, tensions in the Korean Peninsula were running high after various missile tests by North Korea and a fiery exchange of rhetoric between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump.

But during a New Year's speech, Kim's tone shifted, prompting analysts to speculate that the isolated country was suffering from the accumulation of sanctions.

In February, North Korea sent a delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong became the first member of the ruling family to set foot on South Korean soil since the war when she attended both the opening and closing ceremonies. 

We have had more experience with North Korean provocations than with talks and dialogues and I think this still has a big impact on perspectives.

Min Hyeonjong, graduate student

She invited the South Korean President Moon Jae-in to come to Pyongyang. A meeting between the two leaders has been scheduled for later this month and Kim Jong-un has also made arrangements to meet Trump in the coming months.

Despite these steps forward, South Koreans remain conflicted about the likelihood of reunification. 

"If Kim Jong-un wants to talk, North Korea needs to denuclearise. But the current government is begging for a dialogue and giving them whatever they [the North Koreans] ask," says Yon Irae, a priest and activist.

For many, denuclearisation is the key issue on which reunification will be decided, but as Hyun Namhoon, a newspaper owner points out, there are several other important factors to consider.

"The two countries have a gap in everything, including education level and culture. The cost involved in unification is also one of the most important factors we have to think about," he says.

For younger South Koreans, like graduate student Min Hyeonjong, years of living under threat with little evidence of peace talks makes reunification seem unlikely.

"My parents were very sympathetic to North Korea, more so than my peers ... We have had more experience with North Korean provocations than with talks and dialogues and I think this still has a big impact on perspectives."

Source: Al Jazeera News