Cablegate Chronicles: North Korea's Reunion Diet

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How North Korea prepares its people to be reunified with their South Korean relatives.


FROM: SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
TO: STATE DEPARTMENT
DATE: SEPTEMBER 1, 2009
CLASSIFICATION: CONFIDENTIAL
SEE FULL CABLE


--------------------------------------------- Potemkin: Fattening Up the Reliable Relatives ---------------------------------------------

¶7. (C) xxxxx walked us through the mechanics of what comes next in the family reunion process. xxxxx explained that the two Koreas exchanged a list of 200 names each on September 1; the ROKG picked its families by lottery, the DPRK by political reliability. xxxxx explained that each government would then search for relatives of those on the lists. In the past, he said, about half of the participating ROK families received confirmation from the DPRK that their relatives were alive and were then able to hold unifications. The rest of the ROK families received death confirmations or the ambiguous word "unconfirmed."

¶8. (C) xxxxx asserted that once the DPRK identifies politically reliable family members to participate in the upcoming reunions, they will be transported to Pyongyang and then "fattened up" with regular meals and vitamins to mask the extent of food shortages and chronic malnutrition in the north. The "lucky" DPRK reunion participants will also be provided with new clothing -- suits for men and traditional Korean "hanbok" for women -- for the televised event. In our earlier meeting, xxxxx had commented that MOU gives "pocket and travel money" to ROK participants which they then pass on to their North Korean relatives. xxxxx sighed that the majority of the MOU cash is usually pocketed by North Korean officials, who also force the North Korean participants to return their new clothes.

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