Fading hopes of separated Korean families

 

Nearly half of the 129,688 South Koreans who had registered with the Korean Red Cross to have a chance to reunite with their loved ones in the North are deceased.

The actual number of separated families is thought to be much higher when including those who did not report due to fears of any negative impact it would have on their families across the border.

Of the 66,843 surviving families here, the majority, or 42.5 per cent, are in their 80s, while 27.2 per cent are in their 70s. Some 12.1 per cent are 90 and older.

The Seoul government anticipates the deceased members to outnumber the surviving ones by next year.

The first reunion of separated families was held on Sept. 20, 1985, but it was less organised and nearly half of the participants were not able to be reunited during their visits to their hometowns.

Full-fledged reunions with a systematic process to first confirm the whereabouts of the counterparts began in 2000. Up until 2007, reunions were held at least once, and even three times, each year. The number of participants for each event, however, was restricted to around 800 and 1,200.

Due to the frayed inter-Korean relations, reunions were cancelled and resumed repeatedly since 2008. The last round was held on Feb. 20, 2014.

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