09/01/2015, 00.00
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Seoul and Pyongyang meet to plan family reunifications

Red Cross Officials from the two countries will meet on September 7th in Panmunjon to discuss the details. The government of South warns: "Better to be cautious, they can change their mind right up until the last moment" An estimated 70 thousand "divided" families living in the South, no data from the North.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - The governments of the two Koreas have agreed to resume preliminary talks on the issue of family reunification, the stalled since February 2014. . The Red Cross officials from both sides will meet September 7, 2015 in the Panmunjon "Village of peace", the traditional location for meetings between the two governments.

The Blue House - home of the Seoul government - has however warned people that the meeting is not final. An anonymous official who met with representatives of the South Korean media, said: "The North knows that we are open to talks on this issue. But in the past it has changed its mind at the last minute. For now let's monitor the situation closely. "

Family reunificationsd for the first time in 1985. They represent a "goodwill gesture" on the part of the governments of Seoul and Pyongyang, which however have never been able to make institutional. To participate, citizens who can prove that they have a relative still living across the border register with the South Korean Ministry of Unification: the beginning were 130 thousand, today there are in life just over 70 thousand.

Family reunions were held for the first time in 1985. They were a "goodwill gesture" by the two Korean governments, but were never formally institutionalised.  To take advantage of this opportunity, South Koreans who can prove that they have a living relative on the other side of the border must register with the South Korean Ministry of Unification.  When the programme started, 130,000people applied; at present, only 70,000 or so are still alive.

From this macro-list, the Seoul government prepares various lists in order of seniority and degree of kinship: the priority is given to those who are older - but can still bear the physical and mental stress that these reunifications involve - and who has close relatives such as children or brothers and sisters. Given these criteria, they arrive at a list of about a thousand names, and the ministry relies on a computer during a televised lottery to randomly select names that will be included in reunification.

In addition, there are a number of "reserves", who are called up in the event of unforeseen dropouts: Participation in the meetings means automatic exclusion from subsequent lists. The methods of selection applied by Pyongyang and statistics on family members of the North are unknown.

The meetings are always very emotional and are followed by the entire nation. They are part of a package of six joint actions that Seoul and Pyongyang say they want to continue: others include recovery of tourism on Mount Keumgang, in the North, and a greater economic exchange and trade in the Demilitarized Zone.

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