North Korean and South Korean families are meeting at Mount Kumgang in the North this week as part of reunion events organised by the two countries.
“There are at least 20 million relatives separated by the Korean War,” says North Korea escapee, John Choi. “It is the most tragic thing on earth.”
The process of the family reunion depends on the political climate on the Korean peninsula. After Kim Jong-un and president Moon Jae-in met in April and May they agreed to resume the reunions.
But John Choi told Open Doors that this isn’t fair, “The process of family reunion depends on political events but it shouldn’t. They should not be stopped nor should they be used as a bargaining chip.
“The family reunions are a good thing and should not be counted as one of the political processes. These people who have been separated grow old and times is running out for their chance to meet each other. “
Only 89 South Koreans and 83 North Koreans are being allowed to meet. The South Koreans were chosen by lottery. The North Koreans participants had to go through a strict propaganda education process. They are told not to say anything negative about North Korean society and must tell their relatives from the South that they are well looked after by their leaders and party and that it is the best society in the world.
The meetings are monitored by security guards. Any North Korean heard to be criticising the country will be punished. Many South Koreas report being disconcerted and saddened by their relative’s constant praise of the regime.
Everyone brings gifts including, clothes, medicine and food for their relatives but less is expected from the much poorer North Korean side.
According to John Choi, North Korean families must share money or expensive items with the North Korean authorities.
North Korea is number 1 on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List. Persecution is led by the state which sees Christians as hostile elements that have to be eradicated. Due to constant indoctrination, neighbours and family members, including children, are highly watchful and report anything suspicious to the authorities. If Christians are discovered, they are deported to labour camps as political criminals or killed on the spot; their families share their fate. Meeting for worship is almost impossible, so is done in utmost secrecy. The churches shown to visitors in Pyongyang serve mere propaganda purposes.