Saturday, January 30, 2010

Inter-Korean relations

Separated families of two Koreas hold tearful reunions

Yonhap News Agency (01.10.2009) / HRWF Int. (01.10.2009) – Email: – Website: - For the first time in nearly two years, hundreds of South and North Koreans had emotional reunions with long-lost family members living across the border, but they had to separate three days after brief reunions.

The reunions were held in two separate groups at the North's eastern resort of Mt. Kumgang. The first segment was held Sept. 26-28, while the second took place from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1.

On Sept. 26, a total of 97 South Koreans traveled across the Demilitarized Zone and met 233 relatives from whom they had been separated since the 1950-53 Korean War. More than three-quarters of the participants were 70 or older.

In the second segment of the event, 99 North Koreans were reunited with 449 relatives living in the South.

They were among hundreds of South and North Koreans who met their long-lost families in the first government-arranged reunions in two years and one of the most visible reconciliatory steps between the two sides after protracted tensions on the peninsula.

Millions of Koreans remain separated since the Korean War, with no information on the fate of their families, as they are allowed neither cross-border communication nor travel without government approval.

On the first day, a two-hour meeting was held at a facility dedicated for the reunions of separated families that was completed in July of last year, but had been left empty for more than a year amid souring inter-Korean ties.

On the second day, meetings were held separately in private rooms at a hotel run by Hyundai Asan, the North Korean arm of Hyundai Group. After the brief and tearful three-day reunions, the families separated again Sept. 28 with no visible prospects of meeting again.

The second three-day reunion began Sept. 29 at the same venue, and 99 North Koreans were reunited with 449 relatives living in the South.

The reunions came as a result of a dramatic agreement in August between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Hyun Jeong-eun, chairwoman of South Korea's Hyundai Group -- a major investor in the cash-strapped nation. The agreement is one of the highlights of the North's recent goodwill gestures, which include easing cross-border traffic to and from a South Korean-run industrial park in Kaesong, North Korea.

Hyundai Asan, operator of the tourism facility at Mt. Kumgang, operated a special print station for digital cameras brought by South Korean participants. The families gave photos taken Sept. 26 to their relatives so they could be delivered to others who couldn't take part in the reunions.

About 600,000 people in the South are believed to have family members in the North. The first round of cross-border reunions was held in 1985, and they had become a semi-regular event since 2000 after a historic inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang. They were halted in 2007 as inter-Korean ties began to fray.

Candidates from the South were first selected through a computer lottery, with the final lists being drawn from applicants whose relatives were located, giving priority to immediate family members and the elderly.

Inter-Korean tensions mounted after the conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak came to power in the South last year. Lee toughened up on the North's nuclear drive and suspended massive aid, and in response, North Korea boycotted dialogue and suspended the family reunions.

The mood further chilled in July last year after a North Korean soldier in the Mt. Kumgang resort area shot and killed a South Korean tourist who had strayed into an off-limits military zone.

North Korea has asked the South whether it is willing to extend a "goodwill" measure toward the North in response to ongoing reunions of separated families, according to Seoul's Red Cross chief Yoo Chong-ha, who was accompanying the South Korean families in the North.

Yoo told pool reporters that his North Korean counterpart, Jang Jae-on, presented an indirect request for South Korean rice and fertilizer aid at Saturday's banquet, held alongside the reunion event at this North Korean mountain resort.

Jang Jae-on, head of North Korea's Red Cross, called for the people of the two Koreas to work together to "open the door to unification." He said that the implementations of accords from the past two inter-Korean summits would guarantee "the future" of the two Koreas.

North Korea demands that Seoul follow through with the accords of 2000 and 2007, reached between North Korean leader Kim and liberal then South Korean Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. Roh's conservative successor, Lee Myung-bak, suspended unconditional aid to the North and toughened up on its nuclear program.

ေကာင္းေသာလာျခင္းပါ မိတ္ေဆြ

သင့္အေတြး သင့္အျမင္