GEARING UP FOR SEPARATED FAMILY REUNIONS [Korea's separated families, Part I]

On Tuesday (Oct. 20), families who haven't seen each other in more than 60 years, will get to see each other face to face.

Around 100 families from South Korea and 100 families from North Korea will reunite for the first time since becoming separated by the Korean War.

But out of the 68,000 registered separated family members who are alive today, how were the 100 chosen?

South Korea's Red Cross makes its selection process clear. As for the North, it's unclear on how they choose who gets to go to these reunions.

In South Korea, the first round of cuts are made through a computer system that filters out the younger candidates, and priority is given to those family members either looking for their child or a spouse.

The list is then cut down to about 200 after various health exams of the candidates. Officials try to make sure that family members are well enough to travel from South Korea to a mountain resort in North Korea for the six-day reunions.

Once this happens, South Korea's Red Cross then exchanges its list with North Korea to confirm whether or not the family members being looked for are indeed alive.
Then, the final list of 100 people is made.

This year, South Korea has a final list of about 90 people hoping to meet their loved ones in North Korea. North Korea provided a list of 97 North Koreans who are hoping to do the same. Five families are reuniting with either their parent or child. 

Why just 100?

It's a number that frustrates most South Koreans- why is it just 100 people from both sides when time is running out for most of them? 

Data shows that a majority of the separated family members (80%) are over the age of 70, and out of the 130,000 registered in South Korea, only 68,000 are alive today.

No matter how many times Seoul has called on for increasing the number of participants, North Korea has been set on having just 100 each time. Efforts to make these reunions happen more regularly have also failed, even though Seoul regards this as an urgent humanitarian issue.

It's been more than six decades since the Korean War ended, but there were only 20 reunions held between North and South Korea. The first such reunion between the two countries were in the year 2000 and the last one was in February 2014.

With just a fraction of the candidates selected for these reunions, most people will never get the chance to meet their long-lost loved ones.

The stories of how these families were split vary.

72-year-old Kim Nam-gyu clings onto the hope that he will one day be able to meet his older brother whom he hasn't seen since the 1950s. The older brother was taken away from the family at 19 years old when he was conscripted to join the North Korean military.

85-year-old Kim Young-ae hopes to reunite with her younger siblings, who were three and five years old when she last saw them. As an older child of the family, she fled to the South with other relatives when the war broke out. She was told her younger siblings would soon follow, but no one was prepared for the 38th parallel to forever divide the country and families.