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Seoul to build separated families’ genetic database

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Published : 2014-08-22 20:48
Updated : 2014-08-22 20:48

South Korea will launch a project to build a database of genetic information for senior citizens whose loved ones are in North Korea after being separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, the unification ministry said Friday.

“Of the separated family members who filed for a gene test, the ministry will first select 1,200 people based upon their seniority, carry out the test starting Monday and preserve their genetic information,” spokesman Kim Ui-do said at a regular briefing.

The genetic data will allow for the chronicling and verification of separated families in the future and allow their offspring to meet their future relatives in the North.

According to government data, some 81 percent of 69,866 surviving South Koreans whose family members and relatives are living in the communist country are in their 70s. Since 1988 when the Seoul government began documenting the separated families, nearly half have died with unresolved grievances.

It will be the first time that the Seoul government has launched such a project, though it has long pushed to set up a genetic database.

The project is in accordance with the government’s ordinance on the confirmation of the separated family members and the promotion of their exchanges. The rule was revised and took effect last November.

The ministry said it will also begin filming 10-minute messages of the separated families for their loved ones in the North, while planning to send them to the North after a consultation with Pyongyang.

“The projects are meant to preserve information and records of the elderly people before it is too late and to get prepared step by step for inter-Korean exchange programs,” Kim added.

Earlier this week, South Korea suggested that the two Koreas should hold high-level talks to discuss the reunions and other mutual issues, while the North remains mum on the proposal.

The last family reunion took place in February at the Mount Geumgang resort in North Korea, the first of its kind since 2010. (Yonhap)

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