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South Wants Recurring Video Reunions

Posted November. 25, 2005 08:29,   


The South Korean government is planning to make video reunions of separated families a regular event.

“I will propose to North Korea to make the on-screen family reunion sessions a monthly event, or at least to hold them on a regular basis during the upcoming inter-Korean ministerial meeting slated for this December in Jeju Island,” said South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young at a press conference yesterday.

The two Koreas held their second video reunion event yesterday.

During the two-day event from November 24 to 25, 340 members of 40 families in South Korea will see 210 of their long-lost family members in North Korea through a videoconferencing system. The event is being held at the headquarters and local branches of the Korea Red Cross in Seoul, Incheon, Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Suwon City in Gyeonggi Province, Chuncheon City in Gangwon Province, and Jeju City on Jeju Island.

However, at a video conference room in Seoul yesterday, some of the wounds of separated families caused by deep-rooted rifts of ideology and time did not look healed.

“I will uphold the will of the general (North Korean leader Kim Jong Il) and accomplish reunification,” said Lee Su Yeol (76) of North Korea. He repeatedly said the words, “general” and “reunification” during his conversation with his little brother Lee Young-yeol (73) in the South. The younger brother tried to steer the conversation to other topics, bringing out stories of other relatives. However, the older Lee did not respond to the attempts, and the atmosphere became uncomfortable.

When Seo Young Suk (72) and her two sons in the North met her sisters and brothers in the South, religious issues triggered tension. “We rely on God whenever we have trouble, then all our worries go away,” said the Southern relatives. “We have freedom of religion, too, but we only believe in the general,” answered Seo’s two sons. An awkward silence fell.

Myoung-Gun Lee gun43@donga.com