EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Ever since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the issue of separated Korean families – while very painful for the affected people – has received only scant attention from the leaders of both Koreas. The time has come to solve this humanitarian problem and heal the suffering of these families before they pass away.
The Korean Peninsula has suffered the pain of separated families ever since the end of the Korean War. One of President Moon Jae-in’s achievements during his April 2018 summit with Kim Jong-un was an agreement to conduct a family reunion by the end of August 2018, the first such event for several years. While the media focused mainly on the summit itself and the nuclear and missile issues, this agreement regarding separated families received only limited coverage.
For more than 100,000 South Koreans, the separated families issue is an open wound that has not healed in six decades. (Exact figures on how many separated families live today on both sides of the Korean border depend on the counting of first- or second-degree relatives.) South Koreans who wish to see their relatives across the border must enter a lottery. For every 50,000 or so applicants, one hundred or fewer are notified by the South Korean Ministry of Unification that they have been selected. If they are among those fortunate few, they must simply hope their relatives in North Korea are still alive and in good health.