News / Asia

S. Korea Urges North to Allow Family Reunions

South Korean protesters shout slogans as they hold national flags during a press conference against abrupt cancellation by North Korea of planned reunions for families separated by the Korean War, Sept. 23, 2013.
South Korean protesters shout slogans as they hold national flags during a press conference against abrupt cancellation by North Korea of planned reunions for families separated by the Korean War, Sept. 23, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
South Korea is urging North Korea not to back out of planned reunions this week of aging families separated by the Korean War.  Pyongyang on Saturday announced it was indefinitely postponing the meetings because of what it called a confrontational attitude from Seoul. 
 
South Korea's Unification Ministry on Monday called for North Korea to allow scheduled inter-Korean family reunions to go forward.
 
The meetings, between relatives divided since the Korean War, have not been held since 2010 because of political and military tension.
 
An ease in tensions led the two Koreas to agree in August to resume the reunions this week.
 
Through the Red Cross, they exchanged lists of about 100 families on each side. But on Saturday, Pyongyang abruptly called-off the event.  
 
Kim Eyi-do, a Unification Ministry spokesman, said North Korea should rapidly respond to their call for holding the family reunion event to cure the pain and scars of separated families.
 
The ministry called Pyongyang's unilateral postponement of the reunions deeply regrettable and inhumane.  It noted the urgency of reuniting aging family members, noting three participants had to cancel due to health while one other died.
 
Less than 60 percent of the 129,000 South Koreans registered as having family in the North are still alive.
 
And more than 70 percent of surviving families are aged 70 or older.
 
Lee Ki-sook, 81, said she could not help but cry when the reunion with her family was called off.
 
She said she feels very sad and can hardly talk about it.  She was going to meet her niece, the daughter of her older brother.  She said she bought many gifts.
 
Ninety-two-year-old Park Woon-hyung said he has been waiting 60 years and can wait a few more months.
 
He does not think the reunions are halted forever and hopes the reunions resume within a month.  He said it comforts him that he confirmed the person who he wants to meet is alive.  His brother, youngest sister and himself are alive, and he heard that his daughter is alive there too.  He said he is satisfied to hear that even though he could not meet them.  
 
Lee Sang-nam said while her hopes were dashed for a family reunion she really worries about her 88-year-old mother.
 
She said her mother feels more despair than herself.  She is extremely disappointed as this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity may go away.  She wishes her mother to meet their relatives as soon as possible because she is worried.  They are very old and get sick easily, she said, and she is also worried about her mother's health.
 
Kim Seong-keun is Director of the Korea Red Cross's International and Inter-Korean Bureau.  He said North Korea has postponed reunions before (in 2000, 2001 and 2007) but later resumed them.
 
He said many divided families are in despair, it is a regrettable situation and they think that the families need consolation.  He said they called all the families Saturday and Sunday to tell them the news.
 
North Korea's state media blamed their decision to call off the reunions on Seoul, which it said loudly took credit for improved inter-Korean relations while mocking and provoking Pyongyang.  
 
In South Korea, there are suspicions the North’s suspension is a negotiating tactic aimed at tying the reunions to a push to resume lucrative tourism to Mount Kumgang.  
 
Lee Sang-cheol is chairman of the Ten Thousand Divided Families Committee.  He says Pyongyang only raises the possibility of reunions when there is a political problem.
 
He said the issue of reunions of divided families is a humanitarian matter.  He thinks it was North Korea’s idea to connect the divided families reunions and the Mount Kumgang tour.  He said North Korea is acting against filial piety and they condemn the action.
 
Visitation to the North's resort area has been halted since 2008, when a soldier shot dead a South Korean tourist who wandered into a restricted area.
 
Cash-starved Pyongyang had sought to include Mount Kumgang tourism along with negotiations for the family reunions and the re-opening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.  But Seoul has insisted on keeping the inter-Korean factory project in North Korea, and reunions, separated from the tourism issue.
 
Pyongyang unilaterally suspended the Kaesong factory operations in April, but they resumed last week after months of talks.
 
The negotiations on resuming tourism to Mount Kumgang were scheduled for October 2, but Pyongyang has postponed them. 

VOA Seoul Bureau Producer Youmi Kim and Korean Service reporter Do Sung-Min contributed to this report

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid