For a change, here's some good news out out of North Korea: On Thursday, the totalitarian country is hosting a family reunion for Korean families split by the Korean War. The six-day reunion event kicking off Thursday will host roughly 500 North and South Koreans, a fraction of those splintered by the 1950-53 Korean War that bred a deep divide between the two nations. Citizens of the two countries have rarely been allowed to speak in six decades, a tumultuous political issue throughout Korea in itself, and tens of thousands of families have zero knowledge of their family members over the border.
While North and South Korea have had family reunions in the past, this is the first since 2010, and the wait-list had thousands of names. Only a few hundred were chosen by a computer-generated lottery. The family reunion was initially scheduled to take place in Sept. 2013 — until North Korea cancelled the event, accusing the South of using reunions to worsen the politics between the two countries.
Fortunately for the family members, Thursday's event has not fallen through, and it will continue through to Tuesday, Feb. 25. Elderly folks in their 80s and 90s will make up a large portion of the people at the reunion. Several will be in wheelchairs, and a couple in ambulances because they require ongoing medical attention — and, yet, they still made the trek to North Korea's Diamond Mountain.
One 91-year-old South Korean man in an ambulance, Kim Seom-gyeong, told the South Korean news agency Yonhap, "Even if I die, I will die in the Diamond Mountain."
And words can't really do justice to this footage of family members reuniting.
While it's good news that North Korea even allowed a reunion, it will, unfortunately, most likely be the last time these family members see one another before they pass away.
The reunion comes just days after North Korea was compared to Nazi Germany in an extensive, 400-page UN report, which called for Kim Jong-un to be charged with crimes against humanity.
The fact that North Korea only allows a lucky few South Koreans to come to reunions — not to mention, it cancelled the reunion last September, devastating many families — should serve as a reminder that no matter how lovely the event seems, we're still very much dealing with a country run by a dictator who has allowed horrifying prison camps and torture practices.