KBS, one of the biggest reasons for reunification quest

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From BD Naraayannkar

Have you ever heard about KBS? The Indian youth are certainly in the know about hit Korean dramas such as Winter Sonata, Dream High, Boys Over Flowers, Love in the Moonlight, Oh My Venus, Go Back Couple, The Endless Love, and Descendants of the Sun, thanks to the OTT mania.

All these drama series have been aired on KBS – Korean Broadcasting System – one of the three largest national television networks in South Korea. Founded in 1927, it is a public corporation funded by the government of South Korea.

A delegation of Indian journalists had a visit to the KBS, and a majority of them enjoyed the live broadcast of the Music Bank show, featuring their favourite Kpop idols so close.

However, beyond the mirth of such shows, it is pertinent to reminisce the role played by KBS in reuniting separated family members torn by the Korean War through its TV programme – Finding Dispersed Families.

The programme, which started on 30 June 1983, succeeded in reuniting 10,189, according to data from the state-run National Archives of Korea.

The live show was originally meant to last for only one-and-a-half hours, but went on for five months. It was extended because a swarm of people assembled at the KBS with a hope to find their long-lost family members. They were moved by the gut-wrenching emotions displayed by the candidates on the TV screen after they were reunited with their loved ones.

The programme earned many international accolades including UNESCO recognition in 2015.

The emotional impact of witnessing families being reunited through live television had an indelible impact on the South Korean public, leading to a surge in demand for the reunification of families separated by the inter-Korean border.

Two years after this show, exchange visits of separated families took place in Seoul and Pyongyang, following the talks between the South and North Red Cross.

A group of 50 people each from South and North Korea crossed the border to participate in the reunion programme.

State-run family reunions were not officially arranged for 15 years until 2000 when the first-ever inter-Korean summit was held in Pyongyang between the South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

The reunion event for families torn apart by the war was then on held almost annually, except in 2008 when a South Korean tourist to Mount Geumgang in North Korea was shot dead by a North Korean soldier.

The reunions resumed in 2019 but halted now and then, due to strained North-South relations. As of now there has been no resumption of talks between the South and North over family reunions for almost five years.

As of the last month end, the total number of applicants for separated family reunions stood at 133,675. Among them, merely 31.8 percent – 42,624 people – are alive, according to data compiled by the Ministry of Unification.

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