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23,000 video letters yet to be sent to families in NK

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

Over 23,000 videos of South Koreans hoping to reconnect with their kin in North Korea have yet to be sent across the border, according to government data released by a lawmaker on Wednesday.

Ever since the South’s Unification Ministry delivered 25 “video letters” produced by South Koreans for their families in the North in 2008 as a pilot project, and put up 1,568 such clips as part of a digital museum for families separated since the 1950-1953 Korean War, not a single video letter has been sent to its intended recipients.

Of the 50,478 surviving applicants for government-arranged reunions with their kin in the North, 85.7 percent are aged 70 or above.

“As the ministry has secured exemptions from the UN sanctions on North Korea for family reunions, they should speed up efforts to hold video reunions or exchange video letters for the separated families,” Kim said.

A total of 23,072 video letters have been produced by the separated families over the past 15 years since 2005, according to Rep. Kim Ki-hyun of the main opposition People’s Power Party.

More than 5,000 of them were produced and kept at the Unification Ministry since 2017 -- 1,500 in 2017, 1,502 in 2018, 1,010 last year and about 1,000 so far this year.

The 480 million won ($411,772) worth of video display terminals and lighting equipment that the ministry purchased to send to the North for family reunions are still in storage, as the reunions organized by Seoul and Pyongyang have not been held for years.

Thirteen conference halls built for video reunions for families separated by the inter-Korean border -- in Seoul, Busan, Gwangju and other places -- have never been used since 2007, even though 2.3 billion won has been spent to refurbish them, Kim said.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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