Over 1,200 South Korean separated family members died in Q1
Du Ri Jang, May 3, 2017, 9:19 a.m.
More than 1,200 South Korean members of families separated across the border since the 1950-53 Korean War died in the first quarter of this year, government data showed Wednesday. The two Koreas held last family reunions in October 2015 at a resort on Mount Kumgang on North Korea's east coast. The event was suspended amid tensions in inter-Korean ties.
The number of separated family members who died in the January-March period reached 1,273, compared to 3,378 tallied for the whole year of 2016, according to the data by the Ministry of Unification.
A total of 131,172 separated family members are on the waiting list for family reunions with their kin in North Korea. About 53 percent of those on the list have passed away as of end-March, the data showed.
Since 1988, the government has tallied the number of separated family members, based on figures of those who apply for family reunions.
The data showed that 62 percent of the 61,322 surviving family members are aged over 80, indicating that more could die before meetings with relatives in North Korea take place.
Those aged between 80 and 89 accounted for 43 percent while those aged over 90 came in at 19.4 percent, it said.
The two Koreas remain technically at war as the Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
Nearly eight out of 10 South Korean separated families said top priority should be placed on confirming whether their family members in North Korea are alive, showed a 2016 survey conducted by Seoul's unification ministry.
Holding family reunions on a regular basis ranked second with 10.3 percent, followed by exchanges of letters with 4 percent, the poll said.
South and North Korea have held 20 rounds of such reunions so far, but there are still many family members waiting their turn.