Church prayerful ahead of family reunions

The reunions meant to bring together families and relatives separated by partition will be the first since 2010.

February 13 2014, 2:10 PM
Church prayerful ahead of family reunions
South Korean Wang So-Goon (R) waves to her North Korean relatives after a separated-family reunion in the North, on November 5, 2010.

Catholics are praying for reunion of families divided by the partitioning of the Korean peninsula in 1953, scheduled to take place at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang resort from February 20-25.

A day after the Koreas agreed upon the reunions at a meeting held on February 5, North Korea’s top military body said in a statement that it would reconsider the family reunion deal if joint US-South Korea military exercises went ahead. They are due to begin around the same time as the reunions.

The reunions meant to bring together families and relatives separated by partition will be the first since 2010. The programme was suspended after the North's shelling of a South Korean border island in November 2010. 

"We hope that the latest agreement will be smoothly carried out to ease the suffering and pain of separated families," the Korean Ministry of Unification stated.

An estimated 72,000 South Koreans are on a waiting list for a chance to participate in such family reunions, where only a few hundred are able to take part.

In the past, North Korea had cancelled reunions after the South took actions it opposed. It has been accused of using the reunions, which are highly emotional events, as a bargaining chip.

A South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman confirmed last Thursday that the military drills with US would go ahead.

North Korea views the exercises, held every year around this time, as aggressive. Last year, the exercises led to a prolonged surge in tensions, with North Korea threatening pre-emptive nuclear strikes and cutting a military hotline with the South. 

Several thousand Koreans were displaced and separated during the 1950-53 Korean War. Normal direct communications across the armistice line are prohibited since the 1953 partition agreement and many separated families have lost contact with each other.

Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul is known for his dedication to reconciliation between North and South Korea.

The South Korean Bishops’ Conference had dedicated June 2013 as a month of prayer for the reconciliation and unity of Koreans. Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon of Uijongbu had led the prayers for reconciliation, aiming to reignite passion for unity.

A prayer chain ran throughout South Korea, beginning in Seoul and ending in Wonju. The prayer chain sought the intercession of Blessed Virgin Mary for peace between the Koreas.

Source: Catholic News Agency & BBC