North And South Koreans Wait In Anguish For Family Reunion News

September 14, 2015 – South and North Korea will exchange tomorrow a list of names to take part in a family reunion event next month.

Little is known about how North Korea selects its family members, but in South Korea it is done through a lottery system.

Last week, several elderly Koreans attended Seoul’s Red Cross office, eager to learn more about the reunion next month.

“I applied 20 years ago to meet my separated family members, but it never worked out,” said Chun Ju-eul, an 87-year-old separated from his family members.

“There is a list of all the people who applied. I came to see how far I am along the list and how long I have to wait, but I was informed that the list has no significance,” he said. The list has no significance because the selection process is done through a random computer draw.

Last Wednesday, the names of 500 South Koreans were selected as preliminary candidates with those over the age of 90 and with immediate families in North Korea, defined as parents and children, given priority.

Calls are made to all the 500 people to check if they still want to take part in the reunion, and to assess if they are healthy enough to make the trip to North Korea’s Mount Kumgang.

On Tuesday each side will exchange the names of families who hope to meet and names of 250 South Koreans will be given to the North to ensure they are still alive. Accordingly, North Korea will offer the South its own list of 200.

A final list with names of 100 people from both sides each will be exchanged on Oct 8.

This time around, just like before, Chun Ju-eul’s name was not among the 500 preliminary candidates. Nor was Lee Young-yu’s, 87.

“My name should be here. My name’s not here. Is it because I’m not old enough or what? I want to die. I want to quickly find my daughter. I just want to know if she’s alive or not. I left her when she was just three. My heart is about to explode,” she said.

There are more than 65,000 South Koreans who have families living in the North and they desperately want to meet them. Many were separated in the 1940s and 1950s following the division of the Korean peninsula into the South and North.

The two Koreas have held 19 face-to-face reunions since the historic summit meeting in 2000 between the two sides. But October’s reunion will only be the second one to be held in the past five years.

There have also been seven reunions through video-conferences, something South Korea wants to do more.

South Korea also wants to make this reunion a regular event but much of the final decision making lies with Pyongyang.

For those who were unlucky this time, they can only wait and hope that another reunion will come soon.


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