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Elderly separated families seen less emotional than 4 years ago

Elderly separated families seen less emotional than 4 years ago

Posted February. 25, 2014 04:42,   


Lee Yeong-shil, 88, could hardly say words even when her daughter Dong Myeong-sook, 67, from North Korea who she so terribly missed for many years was sitting right by her at reunion luncheon on Thursday last week. When Dong said, “Mom, you and me have been searching for each other because we missed so much,” sobbing, Lee only replied “Is that so?” Lee’s eyes apparently turned red, but her facial expression‍ hardly revealed her overflowing emotion.

Family reunions are being held for the first time in four years. Watchers say that “overflowing sadness” have waned than before. Why is this? Is it because they have lost emotion due to passage of such a long period of time? Experts, including artistic anatomist and psychiatrists who analyzed scenes of family reunions, flatly denied that on Monday, saying “That is not the case.”

Cho Yong-jin, artistic anatomist and famed researcher of facial expression‍, said, “Even if those people want to reveal their overflowing emotions, expression‍al muscles that have hardened due to aging do not allow them to express.” Cho said at the first family reunion event in 2000 when separated families were not as old as they are now, they often revealed expressions displaying uncontrollable degree of sadness and joy due to reunions.

Such wild emotions are expressed unknowingly through contraction and tension of expression‍al muscles on the face. However, as physical and brain activities have slowed due to aging, and expression‍al muscles hardened, the internal emotion of pain and sadness is not revealed accurately on their face. Cho said, “To other people, they look as if they wear just emotionless expressions, but in reality they even cannot afford to reveal on their face overflowing emotion that are beyond their control due to aging and dementia.”

Woo Jong-min, professor of neuro-psychiatric department at Inje University College of Medicine, defined it as “facial expression‍ of resignation stemming from fatigue caused by suppression of desire for the extended period of time spanning 64 years.” He thus suggests that since they have lived for too long while suppressing the pain of being forced to separation by the ‘external force’ of national division, their sense of longing has changed. The mentality of “give-up and despair” that they cannot design their future together with their loved ones they have reunited also weakens the intensity of emotion expressed on their face.

Kim Seok-joo, professor of psychiatric health department at Seoul National University College of Medicine, said, “It is a result of mixed internal psychology that has become callous due to repeated emergence of mixed feelings of the hope that they would have a chance to meet each other, and the despair that ‘we cannot meet again this time’,” Kim said. “The sense of guilt that they were not aware of death of family members, particularly parents during the period of separation, and anxiety that they will have no chance to reunite again and the reunion will be their last chance to see each other are expressed through gloomy facial expressions.”