September 21, 2019
September 21, 2019


Opinion on the latest North Korea issues from analysts, academics and experts worldwide. Views expressed in Opinion articles are exclusively the authors’ own.

Inter-Korean family reunions: a defector’s perspective
Inter-Korean family reunions: a defector’s perspective
"If it took these people 70 years, how long will it take for me to see my family in the North?"
August 23rd, 2018

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As part of the implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration signed by Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un in April, the two Koreas decided to hold two rounds of reunions of families separated by the Korean War.

The first group consisted of 89 individuals from the South, who were reunited with their families in the North at a hotel in Mt. Kumgang for three days from August 20-22.

They spent 12 hours in total together during the three-day visit, and yesterday family members from both sides bid tearful goodbyes to each other, hoping to see their much missed loved ones again.

I, too, hope they see their loved ones again, sooner rather than later. It’s so nice to see the 89 people reunited with their parents, siblings, and relatives, but seeing these families reunited after almost 70 years apart, I came to wonder what is preventing them from meeting each other as they wish.

Can’t this issue ever be separated from politics? Can’t we let these elderly separated families visit their parents and siblings freely?

There are over 50,000 families divided by the war, and they have been waiting to be reunited with their family members. Isn’t 70 years enough? How much longer should they wait to see their missed ones? I hate to say it, but they do not have much time left.

“Putting people first,” was Moon Jae-in’s campaign slogan when he was running for the office. If the Moon administration truly wants to put people as its priority above all things, shouldn’t the cabinet try to make exchanges between these family members happen more often?

Can’t they make family reunions happen more often? Why can’t they see their parents, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters as much as they wish? Why should it be impossible for these families to exchange letters and phone calls?

As much as I hope for more active exchanges between them, I am also envious of these people for being able to see their families within their lifetime.

They deserved it after all that waiting. They waited for this event their entire lives. Their dreams came true. But mine? I’m not sure. All I can do is keep my hopes up.

Isn’t the people’s pain enough to end the division? Isn’t 70 years long enough? How much longer should the Korean peninsula endure this pain?

Seeing these families reunited almost 70 years later only worsens a fear that has followed me ever since I left my country. It’s time that I’m most afraid of. I live in fear of how fast it goes by.

If it took these individuals 70 years, how long will it take for me to see my family members in the North? Will I ever get to see my family and friends? Will they still be alive in 70 years? Maybe, if they can manage to live to over 100.

Even though I do not want to admit, let’s face it: I may not see my family again unless some dramatic change, such as some significant development in exchanges between two Koreas or unification, takes place.

Whatever happens, I hope it takes place sooner rather than later, because this three-day long visit of divided families with their loved ones in the North reminds me that time is not on my side.

I really wish I could prevent my parents from getting old, at least until I meet them. Who knows how long it will take, but I hope it does not take another 70 years.

Edited by Oliver Hotham

Featured image: Blue House, edited by NK News

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