Koreas to exchange lists for family reunions

Seoul, Sep 12 (IANS) The two Koreas will exchange lists for the upcoming reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War at the truce village of Panmunjom next week, authorities said on Saturday.

The Korean Red Cross said it will send a list of 250 candidates from the South while receiving a list of 200 candidates from its North Korean counterpart on Tuesday, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The move came as South and North Korea agreed earlier this month to hold the reunions for 100 separated families each from both sides on October 20-26 at Mount Kumgang on the North’s east coast.

Out of about 66,000 surviving family members, 500 candidates were randomly picked by using a computer programme in the first round of selection, based on principles where more weight was given to those aged over 90 and those who hope to meet lineal family members.

The number will be reduced to 250 in the second round of selection by Monday based on health conditions and willingness to join the reunions, according to the Korean Red Cross.

The South’s list will include family members for 50 prisoners of war presumed to be held in the North.

The final list of 100 South Korean family members will be made after checking whether their relatives in North Korea are still alive. The two Koreas will exchange the final lists on October 8.

The upcoming event, the first reunions since February 2014, is the outcome of an inter-Korean deal clinched following heightened tensions over land mines planted near the inter-Korean border by the North in early August.

The issue of the separated families is one of the most pressing humanitarian matters as most of the surviving members are in their 80s and older. About half of the estimated 129,700 applicants for family reunions have died.

More than 66,000 South Koreans are currently living without being able to meet their loved ones across the border following the Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving South and North Korea technically at war.

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