The next family reunion is set for 20-26 August, with 100 families from each side. For the prelate, “We have to start with the small concrete things we have in common, not those that separates us. This will make us feel more and more like brothers and sisters who must live together." Forced to say goodbye, families suffer not knowing whether they will see each other again. Those still alive struggle "against time" to keep healthy.
Daejeon (AsiaNews) – For Mgr Lazarus You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon, bringing together separated family members is the first "humane" step for Koreans to rediscover themselves as "brothers and sisters”.
The prelate expressed his thoughts after Red Cross delegations from North and South Korea announced that family reunions would be held between 20 and 26 August at Mount Keumgang (in North Korea), with a hundred families from both sides.
"During the war, ten million people were separated,” said Bishop You. “The war ended in 1953, 65 years ago. Separated brothers, sisters and parents are now elderly and wish to see each other once more before dying. What is more humane than allowing siblings separated by force to meet? This is the first step, we are brothers and sisters."
"There are so many walls and prejudices that the problem should be solved by small things. The family issue is the most urgent, the most important. In a humane way, starting with small things, everything can be solved.
For the prelate, “We have to start with the small concrete things we have in common, not those that separates us. This will make us feel more and more like brothers and sisters who must live together."
"In the past we had various occasions for family reunions. However, the unstable relationship between the South and the North did not allow for these reunions to continue.”
"How much suffering did separated family endure, forced to meet fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters only for a few days, not knowing whether they would meet again.”
“This tragedy must end as soon as possible. I have heard from some separated family members, already very advanced in age, that they are struggling against time”.
"They are they doing their very best to stay healthy as much as possible, doing sports, etc., hoping that their brothers and sisters in the North are still alive, so that they can finally meet them again.”
“The Korean people feel a lot of sadness and weep over this tragedy that still continues. On the Korean Peninsula, the trauma of the Cold War lingers with so many tears."
"I hope,” said the bishop, “that the reunion of separated families will open up the possibility of more humanitarian aid, helping each other as brothers and sisters, concretely, because we can open our hearts since we are the same family."
The last family reunion took place in 2015. According to South Korea, 57,920 people still have living relatives. Of these, 86.2 per cent are older than 70.
Since the first reunion in 2000, 20 other meetings took place, allowing some 20,000 people to meet again, just 15 per cent of the those who have registered for the family reunion programme.