The group consisting of 326 people was set to leave for the Kumgangsan Resort in the North Korean part of Gangwon Province on Friday.
On Thursday, the South Koreans were briefed on visiting North Korea. They were to set out for the North by bus early Friday and were expected to arrive at the North Korean resort in the early afternoon of Friday, when they will meet with their family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
The North Koreans meeting their South Korean relatives number 83. The North Koreans will also be accompanied by a number of family members.
As with the first round that ended Wednesday, the reunion will take place over the course of three days. The participants are only allowed to meet during the six group and private meetings arranged by the two Koreas. The six meetings include a welcome banquet hosted by the South, a private meeting in participants’ hotel rooms and a final farewell meeting Sunday.
|Kang Jung-ock (left) and Kim Yeon-jun, respectively the oldest and the youngest at the ages of 100 and 7, register for the second round of reunion meetings in Sokcho, Gangwon Province, on Thursday. Yonhap|
While the separated families prepare for the reunion, Typhoon Soulik has come as an unexpected variable, with President Moon Jae-in hinting that rescheduling the event may be a possibility.
The typhoon hit the southern island of Jeju on Thursday, sweeping the island with heavy rains and winds. The typhoon was expected to make landfall on the peninsula’s southwestern coast in the early hours of Friday, and move out to the East Sea, directly affecting the region where the reunion is set to take place.
“(The government) must pay particular attention to their safety, as there are many seniors (among the participants of the reunion, if necessary consider all possible measures such as changing the location or the dates,” Moon said at a meeting for typhoon response measures Thursday.
The Ministry of Unification said that the event is set to go ahead as planned for the time being, and South Korean officials are closely monitoring the situation at the Kumgangsan resort.
The ministry also said that it is working with other concerned South Korean agencies, as well as the North Korean authorities to prepare for the possible impact of the typhoon.
South Korea, meanwhile, is seeking to establish family reunions as a regular event. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Unification revealed that it will discuss related plans with the North Korean authorities, in response to calls for more reunion events in light of the advanced age of many separated families.
According to government data, more than 85 percent of the 56,000 South Koreans who have applied for reunions are over the age of 70.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)