North and South Korea’s Humanitarian Program: North and South Korean Families Reunite After About 6 Decades by Rachel Rnoh

On February 20th, North and South Koreans organized for days, picking out the perfect dress or suit. They collected old family photographs as they prepared to reunite with their families after about six decades.

About a month ago North and South Korea agreed to hold family reunions for those families that were separated during the Korean War. The reunion was on February 20-25 at the Diamond Mountain resort in southeast North Korea.

The 82 participants were chosen by a computer-generated lottery from a waiting list of more than 70,000. The average age of the participants is 84.

This is not the first time the conflicting Koreas have established a humanitarian program. Ever since the end of the Korean War, the two nations have agreed to allow separated families to reunite for a short period of time. During a warmer period of inter-Korean relations, between 2000 and 2010, the North and South held 18 family reunions.  However, this program was halted in 2010 when there was growing friction in the Peninsula. 

South Korea had attempted to resume the humanitarian program last year, but the reunions were canceled by the North Korean government. And although the attempt succeeded this year, North Korea again almost backed out. On Jan. 6, President Park Geun-hye of South Korea urged Pyongyang to prove its sincerity through “action,” proposing that if North Korea agreed to family reunions, the South Korean government would increase humanitarian aid shipments for the North.

The restart of this humanitarian program is a hint that the hostile ties between the two countries may be warming. However, ideas of reunification of the Korean peninsula may be too early to be considered.

The two Koreas opposite and conflicting beliefs, ideals, and government make it impossible for the nation to merge as both countries do not want to assent to the other government.

Because the North and South are technically still at war, they did not sign a treaty. Although South Korea experienced a series of military dictatorships from the 1960s up until the 1980s, it has since developed into a successful liberal democracy. North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) on the other hand, has adopted a communist government where restrictions are particularly strict and state security agents monitor even domestic travel and communication.

The humanitarian program may have been reinstated, but tension still remains, continues to grow, and the war still stands to this day. North Korea has also rejected further plans for the humanitarian program. 

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