[EDITORIALS]Expand the reunionsVirtual reunions, by videoconference, between family members separated by the division of Korea took place for the first time yesterday. There was a videoconference held between 77 people in the South and 50 family members in the North, and another between 20 in the north and 79 in the South. A total of 226 separated family members participated in the video reunions. The fact that this followed 10 instances of actual, physical reunions prove that there has been progress in inter-Korean relations.
But a lot of tasks lie ahead. First of all, the scale of the reunion program is too small, and the intervals between reunions are too long. So far, 9,979 people in both Koreas have participated, but 90,000 are still waiting in the South alone. If the reunions continue at their present pace ―twice a year, with a few hundred people at a time ― then there is no knowing when some of these people’s desperate wishes will come true. This is especially regrettable in light of the fact that the number of first-generation famiy members, who hold the clues to family ties, is diminishing gradually. This is why we need the video reunions.
The problem of separated families is a symbol of humanitarianism. It is painful to live separately from one’s family. If one has to live without knowing the fate of his family members, how deep will his sorrow be? No political consideration should be made here. This problem must be solved according to the universal value that is the humanitarian spirit.
Keeping this in mind, the authorities of both North and South must do more to solve the separated families’ problems. Yesterday’s video reunions were agreed to in a June meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Chung Dong-young, South Korea’s unification minister. It is not known when the next such reunion will be held. At the sixth inter-Korean Red Cross dialogue, to be held a week from today, Seoul plans to put continuous and expanded video reunions on the agenda. We hope the North will accommodate this proposal and help bring about fruitful results.
The family reunions must become a system, not an occasional event. Not just video reunions but exchanges of letters must be promoted so that many more people can learn the fates of their relatives. We shouldn’t forget the desperate cries of those who long for their family members.