The divided nations of North and South Korea have agreed to hold a rare reunion for a select number of families who were separated by the Korean War. Taking place from October 20th-26th at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang resort, the meetings will be just the second family reunion held in the last five years.
Talks facilitated by the Red Cross began early Monday morning, and took place through the night in the border village of Panmunjom. News of the impending reunions comes on the heels of renewed hostilities between Pyongyang and Seoul, after two South Korean soldiers were injured when a landmine exploded on the Southern side of the demilitarized zone between the two countries. South Korea blamed North Korea for the explosion, while the North refused to accept responsibility. Worrisome still for the reunions taking place is the fact that North Korean provocations are expected to continue with the marking on October 10th of the 70th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party, of which Kim Jong-Un is the leader.
Families selected in the South to meet their Northern kin will go through a similar selection to that of the one prior to the last meetings in February of 2014. A list of 500 individuals will be randomly selected by a computer, then whittled down to 200 after interviews and medical exams, while the final 100 will be chosen based on whether or not surviving family members exist in the North. This process is truly a lottery system, as there are over 66,000 Korean’s currently on the list to participate in one of these reunions.
Having their families ripped apart by war over 6 decades ago, many reunions prove to be very emotional. While there are many critics of the program, citing its slow process, especially given the advanced age of the applicants, South Korea has made it a top priority, while the North have been much more reluctant. North Korea is called the ‘Hermit Kingdom’ for a reason, and allowing for the exchange of information between families, as well as details of the differing qualities of life in each country doesn’t seem an attractive idea to the current regime.
Despite the Korean peninsula still technically being in a state of war, the two sides have agreed to hold future talks regarding more reunions.