S Korea chooses candidates for Sept family reunions

S Korea chooses candidates for Sept family reunions

SOUTH KOREA - The South Korean Red Cross on Saturday picked 500 candidates to reunite with their families in the North on Sept. 25-30 on Mount Geumgangsan, as part of preparations for the first of such gatherings in nearly three years.

With priority given to elderly applicants and immediate family members such as parents and children of those living north of the border, the candidates were selected at random by a computer.

The 500 candidates will be narrowed down to around 250 following necessary procedures including health checkups this week. Then, Seoul is to request on Thursday that Pyongyang check whether their family members are still alive.

On Sept. 16, the two Koreas will exchange the final list of 100 people from each side as they agreed during their working-level meeting last Friday, when they also decided to arrange video-linked reunions for another 40 families from each side from Oct. 22-23.

"It usually takes about 50 days to prepare for reunions, but it is only a month away. (Due to the tight schedule), we convened the selection committee this weekend," Ko Kyung-suk, who leads the South's Red Cross, told media.

As of last Friday, there were more than 72,800 survivors who previously applied for the family reunions.

The applicants who failed to get the chance to meet their loved ones expressed sadness. Among them was Hyeon Chun-guk, a former North Korean draftee who was taken to the South as a prisoner of war in 1950.

"Well, we will meet again someday," Hyeon, 81, told Yonhap News Agency.

As the South was speeding up the procedures for the reunions, attention was drawn to how the North would select its own candidates for the meetings.

While the South chose the candidates through a draw system, the North is said to be picking its candidates based on their political orientation and family backgrounds.

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