South Korea Allocates 610 Million Won for DNA Testing of War-Divided Families

SEOUL — The South Korean government, through its unification ministry, announced on Wednesday its decision to allocate 610 million won ($457,270) this year for DNA testing of families torn apart by the Korean War of 1950-53. The initiative aims to leverage genetic information to assist in the reunification of separated family members, many of whom are elderly and have passed away without the opportunity to reconnect with their relatives in North Korea.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the project seeks to address the growing concern of aging separated family members in South Korea, many of whom have not had the chance to meet their kin in the North. Since the inception of this initiative in 2014, gene tests have been conducted on 27,794 individuals from divided families within South Korea. The government has expressed its intention to extend these DNA tests to the children and grandchildren of separated families in the future, as well as to provide support for gene testing of separated family members residing overseas.

As of the end of January, the number of surviving separated family members stood at 39,258, with 67.9 percent aged 80 and older, reflecting the urgency of facilitating family reunions. The divided Koreas have conducted 21 rounds of temporary reunions since a landmark summit between their leaders in 2000, with the most recent reunions taking place in 2018.

The effort to use DNA testing as a tool for reuniting families underscores the complex legacy of the Korean War and the continued human cost of the peninsula's division. This initiative represents a step towards healing the wounds of the past by bringing together families that have been separated for decades.

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