More than 60,000 S. Koreans likely died before meeting separated family in North

September 8, 2014
S. and N. Korea agreed Friday to hold family reunion programs starting next week as scheduled. (Yonhap)

As of Aug. 31, 60,312 of the 129,575 people who applied for family reunions, or 46.5 percent, were dead, according to data from the Ministry of Unification, which handles inter-Korean affairs. (Yonhap)

Lee Young-shil, 86, right, from South Korea, cannot hold back her tears as she finally got to meet her younger sister Lee Jung-shil, 83, who lives in North Korea. (Yonhap)

Earlier this year, Lee Young-shil, 86, right, from South Korea, finally got to meet her younger sister Lee Jung-shil, 83, who lives in North Korea. (Yonhap)

SEOUL, Sept. 7 (Yonhap) — More than 60,000 South Koreans who applied to meet their separated family members in North Korea appear to have died before getting the chance to hold a reunion, government data showed Sunday.

As of Aug. 31, 60,312 of the 129,575 people who applied for family reunions, or 46.5 percent, were dead, according to data from the Ministry of Unification, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

Most of those who died are unlikely to have met their relatives in the North, as only 3,094 families have been reunited through reunion meetings that followed the first-ever inter-Korean summit in 2000.

Of those applicants who are still alive, 10.4 percent are aged 90 or above, while 41.3 percent are in their 80s, and 29.1 percent are in their 70s, according to the data.

The last family reunions were held in February after a hiatus of more than three years. Relations between the two countries had been badly frayed due to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, among other issues.

On Aug. 11, Seoul proposed that the two sides hold high-level talks on various pending issues, including reunions of separated families. The North has yet to respond to the offer.

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