|An elderly South Korean (front) prepares to get on a bus and head for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to meet her long-lost relatives in the DPRK's scenic resort of Mount Kumgang, at Sokcho, South Korea, Feb. 20, 2014. Accompanied by 58 family members, 82 elderly South Koreans, four fifth of them older than 80, departed as of 8 a.m. local time from a resort hotel in the South Korean east coastal city of Sokcho to reunite with their long-lost families, or 178 people from the DPRK, for the first time in six decades. (Xinhua/Yao Qilin)
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SEOUL, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) are in urgent need of regular reunions as war-divided families died of old age at a fast pace, a private think tank report said Thursday.
South Koreans, who applied for reunions since 1988 via the computerized government system, totaled 129,264 as of the end of 2013, among whom 57,784, or 44.7 percent of the total, died, the Hyundai Research Institute said in a report citing Seoul's Unification Ministry data.
The survived applicants of around 71,000 elderly were aging rapidly, with 81.5 percent of the survivors older than 70. The applicants aged 80 and above took up 52.8 percent of the total as of end-2013, up from 20.3 percent 10 years earlier.
Annual deaths of the applicants averaged around 3,800, among whom some 2,200 people died without seeing their relatives in the DPRK, the think tank said, forecasting that all the separated families would pass away within 20 years given the average life expectancy.
The think tank recommended that the two Koreas should stage a large-scale extra reunion for those older than 80 in the near future, while regularly holding monthly reunions for those in their 50s to 70s.
The family reunion center in Mount Kumgang should be constantly open for active meetings, and at the same time, exchange of letters, video reunion and confirmation of life and death for divided families should be allowed, the report said.
Millions of Koreans have been separated since the three-year Korean War ended with armistice in 1953. A total of 21,891 Koreans met their long-lost relatives at the 18 rounds of family reunions from 1985 to 2013.
In 1985, only 157 Koreans met their war-divided families, but the reunions had grown rapidly since 2000 when a historic inter- Korean summit was held. Since then, 18,143 Koreans met their relatives via the face-to-face reunion, and the video reunion, which was launched in 2005, covered 3,748 people.
A group of 82 elderly South Koreans headed for the DPRK's Mount Kumgang resort Thursday morning to meet 178 of DPRK relatives for the first time in six decades. They were accompanied by 58 family members for physical support.
News Analysis: Family reunion, first step toward peace on Korean Peninsula
SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- A secluded resort hotel, located inside the mountains in South Korea's east coastal city of Sokcho, was unusually crowded with gray-haired old men and women, among whom some leaned upon sticks and some were wheelchair-bound.
Family reunion participants, four fifth of whom in their 80s and 90s, jammed the hotel lobby Wednesday afternoon to confirm their identification. They were accompanied by family members, surrounded by photographers and TV cameras shooting the rare, unusual scene. Full story