03/26/2008, 00.00
KOREA
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Stop to North-South family reunions

For “technical reasons” Pyongyang blocks scheduled family reunions, puts off the inauguration of the permanent centre that would give families divided since the civil war a chance to meet.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – Since the election of Conservative President Lee Myung-bak, who has taken a critical stance vis-à-vis North Korea’s Stalinist regime, “family reunions” have come to a halt. Many families divided since the Civil War (1950-1953) are now afraid they might have to wait a long time before seeing again their loved ones from the other side of the border.

Such reunions began in the early 80s when the governments of the two Koreas decide to set up maxi-screens on the border allowing families to see each other.

In 2003 then President Kin Dae-jung launched his “sunshine policy” which led to direct day-long reunions between hitherto separated relatives.

Last year the two sides agreed to the creation of a permanent centre for family reunions but the inauguration date, initially set for April, has been put off sine die.

In the meantime already scheduled reunions have been postponed for “technical reasons”.

For some analysts this is a consequence of the positions taken by the newly-elected president—he has several times criticised the North Korean regime, saying that he was prepared to “stop humanitarian aid” if the human rights situation in the Stalinist nation did not change.

Currently about 130,000 South Korean families are cut off from their North Korean relatives.

For Pyongyang its own people are “true Korean’ compared to South Koreans which it has criticised for selling out to the West.

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