Proposing Regular Video Family Reunions to North Korea

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Proposing Regular Video Family Reunions to North Korea

Nov 25, 2005

Lee Young-ryol, center, of South Korea, reads his letter to elder brother Lee Su-ryol, center on the screen, who is residing in the North, during a two-hour session of reunions of separated families via video held at the Red Cross headquarters in Seoul, Thursday. /Yonhap

Unification Minister Chung Dong-young said Thursday that he will push for more on-screen reunion sessions for separated family members of South and North Korea at the upcoming inter-Korean ministerial talks.

"We will propose the North to either make the video reunion sessions a monthly event or to hold them at least on a regular basis," the minister told reporters at the ministry. He was answering questions on what issues would be included during the 17th inter-Korean Cabinet talks to be held on Cheju Island from Dec. 13 to 16.

Chung's remarks coincided with the beginning of a two-day session of family reunions using video conferencing equipment, which is the second of its kind. South and North Korea first staged the on-screen family reunion sessions on the Aug. 15 Liberation Day this year, with 20 selected families from each side.

This time, 40 families from each side were selected to be reunited with their long-lost family members, from which they were separated by the inter-Korean border, which has bisected the Korean Peninsula for more than half a century since the 1950-53 Korean War. Two hours were set aside for each family. But one family from the South gave up the reunion citing health reasons.

The South Korean Red Cross now operate 13 special video conference rooms around the country, including the newly added one on Cheju Island, to serve the aged separated family members better. North Korea has reportedly set up 10 rooms for the purpose in Pyongyang.

Han Wan-sang, president of the South's National Red Cross, also expressed hopes of regularizing the video reunions when he met with reporters at the headquarters of the Red Cross in Seoul.

"North Korea prefers video family reunions to face-to-face reunions, for reasons I guess you know," Han said. "We propose to hold the video reunion sessions every quarter next year."

At one session held in the morning, Lee Young-ryol, 73, of the South, met his elder brother Lee Soo-ryol, 76, in the North.

The two brothers were attending Seoul National University and Korea University each when the war broke out and they returned to their hometown in South Cholla Province. The two have not met each other since the elder Lee disappeared one day.

"A half century has already passed since you went out on a bike wearing a white shirt. I missed you so," younger Lee read out a letter he prepared.

Another two days of video reunions are scheduled for Dec. 8-9, also with 40 families from each side.


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