Two Koreas agree on list of family reunion participants

Seoul: The two Koreas have finalised a list of families separated by the Korean War whose members will be briefly reunited this month after decades of separation, Seoul said Monday.

The two nations agreed in June to resume the reunions of families torn apart by the 1950-53 war, after a landmark meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the South’s President Moon Jae-in in April.

A total of 93 people from the South will travel to the North’s Mount Kumgang resort to meet their relatives, while 88 citizens of the North will meet their southern kin in a separate reunion at the resort, Seoul’s unification ministry said.

The reunions will be held from August 20-26, with those in their 80s accounting for more than half of the participants, according to the ministry. It will be the first such reunion for three years.

Millions of people were separated from family members during the conflict that sealed the division of the two Koreas, which technically remain at war.

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

Officials from both countries last month exchanged a preliminary list of those hoping to see their family members, before carrying out checks to see whether relatives across the border were still alive.

There are only about 57,000 people still alive who are registered with the South Korean Red Cross to meet their separated relatives. Many of those yearning for a reunion die before succeeding.

For the lucky few chosen to take part, the experience is often hugely emotional. They have just three days to make up for decades apart, followed by another separation — in all likelihood a permanent one.

The reunion programme began in earnest after a historic inter-Korean summit in 2000 and the reunions were initially held annually, but strained cross-border relations have made them rare.

However a rapprochement on the Korean peninsula was triggered earlier this year when Kim decided to send athletes, cheerleaders and his sister as an envoy to the Winter Olympics in the South in February.

Diplomatic efforts have gathered pace since then, leading to a summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

Agence France-Presse