By Felipe Bueno
In early September, North and South Korea agreed to have a new round of “family reunions,” a process in which families separated during the Korean War get the chance to reconnect with long-lost relatives. These meetings are difficult to negotiate, and even harder to coordinate. These reunions take place every few years in North Korea’s Diamond Mountain Resort along the border, where visitors are restricted to four South Koreans for each North Korean.
These reunions began in June 2000 under North Korea’s late Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il and former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. Since then, there have been 18 Korean family reunions, with the next one being the first reunion in five years. Reuters reports that 83-year-old brother and sister, Kim Ho-sook and Kim Ho-dae, last met at the 2010 reunion. The aging population makes the success of these reunions more pressing. CNN reports that two relatives arrived via ambulance, with one on an IV drip, refusing to miss the reunion.
While the idea of a family reunion sounds peaceful and diplomatic, the process by which they occur is less so. North Korea is less reluctant to compromise because they wield greater control on the reunions. They host a national lottery and choose 100 winners to attend the reunions. These meetings are then held on North Korean soil with heavy interference from the North Korean military—one solider is assigned to each table to monitor the conversations of each family.
The New York Times reports that these reunions will take place between October 20 and 26, assuming nothing changes. As the Korean Herald reports, however, the North Korean government has warned that this next round of reunions are on “thin ice” and may be canceled if South Korea continues to oppose the North’s plans of a satellite launch and nuclear tests.