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

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid