South Korean Cho Hye-do, 86 (left), and her North Korean sister Cho Sun Do, 89, have a lot to talk about. But can they speak freely at the closely watched reunion event? (AP)

South Korean Cho Hye-do, 86 (left), and her North Korean sister Cho Sun Do, 89, have a lot to talk about. But can they speak freely at the closely watched reunion event? (AP)

Photos, photos, and more photos were part of the meetings with relatives. Most hadn’t seen each other since being separated by the Korean War. (AP)

Photos, photos, and more photos were part of the meetings with relatives. Most hadn’t seen each other since being separated by the Korean War. (AP)

South Korean Chun Hye-ock and her North Korean niece Kim Yun Kyung share family photos. (AP)

South Korean Chun Hye-ock and her North Korean niece Kim Yun Kyung share family photos. (AP)

North Koreans on a bus hold the hands of their South Korean relatives, saying goodbye after the reunion. (AP)

North Koreans on a bus hold the hands of their South Korean relatives, saying goodbye after the reunion. (AP)

People hope for a united Korean peninsula some day, but many of the North and South Koreans may not see each other again. (AP)

People hope for a united Korean peninsula some day, but many of the North and South Koreans may not see each other again. (AP)

Talking: Off-Limits

Posted: November 5, 2018

What would you ask a family member at a reunion like this one? Maybe a better question is, “What could you ask?” North Korean government workers watch the reunions closely. That makes talking—and telling the truth—tough.

Not everyone at the family reunions got there the same way. South Korean participants were chosen randomly. It is likely North Koreans were chosen based on their loyalty to the North Korean government. North Korea’s government is authoritarian. Government leaders there want to control their people. They do not want them to know what is happening in the rest of the world. Speaking against the government is a crime. We know from people who have escaped North Korea that many there struggle under an oppressive government. But to be considered loyal, North Koreans at reunions have to talk about how good life is in North Korea—even if it’s not.

Jesus said the truth sets people free. (John 8:32) But some truths are off-limits to reunion-goers. Hong Yong-gee lives in South Korea. He was part of a similar reunion in 2015. He said at that reunion his relatives seemed to be talking from a script. Other South Koreans who were there agree. North Koreans kept praising North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. They kept talking about the happy life in North Korea. Mr. Hong says real conversation was almost impossible.

Psalm 68:6 says “God sets the lonely in families.” (NIV) Family separation and lies have led to loneliness in North and South Korea—loneliness only God can heal.

I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. ― 2 Corinthians 6:18