Form: For Separated Families
Swedish American Museum as part of Letters From Home exhibition
My grandfather was from the North. He had a job in the South before the Korean War and when the border was created, he lost all contact with his family in the North. He hoped to hear any news of his family, even if it was just to know if had survived. It was his lifelong dream to be able to reconnect with them. His only hope for this was to be chosen from the South Korean government through their program to reunite families at the border for three days. However, with very few reunifications that have happened over the years due to contentious relations between the two countries, he passed away without ever seeing his dream come true.
According to the Unification Ministry, about 133,650 people in South Korea have applied for reunions but nearly 70% of them have died. And since the first reunions in 1985, it is estimated that only around 18,000 North and South Korean family members have been able to meet in some 19 reunions. The last reunifications happened in 2018, and with tensions rising around North Korea’s nuclear program, it seems unlikely to return in the near future.
My grandfather is the last member of our family who had direct relationships with anyone in North Korea. My father and mother were born in the last months of the Korean War and have never met any of their family members in the North. They cannot apply for this program, and neither can I. I want to send my messages to my family in North Korea and I decided to use this form that was so important to my grandfather as the vehicle for my letters.
Because of the Korean War ended 70 years ago, "The South and the North should confront the painful parts of the reality. We must solve the matter before the term 'separated families' disappears," Unification Minister Kwon Youngse said in a televised briefing. "We need to use all possible means immediately to come up with quick and fundamental measures."