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Red Cross picks 1st batch of candidates for family reunions

2015/09/09 14:20

SEOUL, Sept. 9 (Yonhap) -- The Korean Red Cross said Wednesday it has conducted a computer-based selection for the first batch of 500 candidates for the upcoming reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The move came as South and North Korea agreed Tuesday to hold the reunions for 100 separated families each from both sides on Oct. 20-26 at Mount Kumgang on the North's east coast.

Out of about 66,000 surviving family members, 500 candidates were randomly picked by using a computer program based on principles where more weight was given to those aged over 90 and those who hope to meet lineal family members, according to the Korean Red Cross.

In a second round of selection, the number will be reduced to 250 based on health conditions and willingness to join the reunions.

The agreement calls for Seoul and Pyongyang to exchange lists of 250 and 200 aspirants for the event, respectively, next Tuesday. The South's list will include family members for 50 prisoners of war presumed to be held in the North.

The final list of 100 South Korean family members will be made after checking whether their relatives in North Korea are still alive. The two Koreas will exchange the final lists on Oct. 8.

The upcoming event, the first reunions since February 2014, is the outcome of an inter-Korean deal clinched following heightened tensions over land mines planted near the inter-Korean border by the North in early August.

The issue of the separated families is one of the most pressing humanitarian matters as most of the surviving members are in their 80s and older. About half of the estimated 129,700 applicants for family reunions have died.

More than 66,000 South Koreans are currently living without being able to meet their loved ones across the border following the Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving South and North Korea technically at war.

South Korean resident Cho Gap-soon, 81, sheds tears as she leaves the headquarters of South Korea`s Red Cross in Seoul on Sept. 9, 2015, after finding out she was not selected to take part in the upcoming reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. The Korean Red Cross conducted a computer-based selection for the first batch of 500 candidates for the upcoming event. (Yonhap)South Korean resident Cho Gap-soon, 81, sheds tears as she leaves the headquarters of South Korea`s Red Cross in Seoul on Sept. 9, 2015, after finding out she was not selected to take part in the upcoming reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. The Korean Red Cross conducted a computer-based selection for the first batch of 500 candidates for the upcoming event. (Yonhap) sooyeon@yna.co.kr

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