Seperated Families Are Distressed about Video Conferencing

[imText1]The October 4th Declaration allows for the implementation of periodic reunions for separated families and for the exchange of video letters at the Mount Geumgang Meeting Post.

Some welcome the momentary family reunions, and others, especially the members of separated families in North Korea, don’t.

◆ The North will practice absolute censorship on all video letters

Undoubtedly, the National Security Agency of North Korea will censor every video letter to be sent to South Korea. The North Korean authorities might even write, direct, and produce the video letter.

A bigger problem lies with those in the North who cannot afford to produce video letters for their families in the South.

So far, those North Koreans who had a chance to meet their separated family members living in the South have been individuals who had conformed to or contributed to the North Korean system. It does not matter how they came to North Korea, whether voluntarily or forcefully; in North Korea, these people enjoy decent jobs and income. The badges they wear at the reunions are a display of their social status.

However, the families of those who left North Korea for South Korea after the liberation from Japan or the Korean War have long been isolated and persecuted just because they have family members who had gone to the South. Most of them were removed to coal towns, mines or remote mountain villages. Their misfortune even fell upon their direct family members and their children.

Therefore, the conditions under which these families live are far worse than for the average North Korean. The North Korean authorities would never show how these people really live. There has been only a small number of cases where these people had a chance to meet their family members living in the South at the reunion.

◆ It is problematic to hold the reunions at Mt. Geumgang

Ms. Kang (40) met her aunt in North Korea via video conference. “It was worse than not seeing her,” Kang said, “My father, who is over 80 and can neither move nor talk, could not recognize his sister’s voice. It only increased his pining for his family.”

“Had my father had a chance to meet his sister in person, he could have held her hand and they could have had a meal together,” Kang said, adding that “after the video conference, his anguish deepened further.”

The separated families hope to freely come and go to both the North and the South. However, the 2007 Summit did not even mention the issue of separated families visiting their hometowns.

Of separated families on both sides are the few elderly people whose need demands special attention. Before they die, these elderly people want to visit their hometown and meet their families at least once. However, the odds are slim as long as the meeting place is restricted only to the Mt. Geumgang reunion center.

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