South, North Korea families reunite decades after war

North Korea to host emotional family reunions

With tears and cries, dozens of elderly and frail South and North Korean family members met on Monday for the first time since the peninsula, and their relationships, were torn apart by war almost 70 years ago.

From Friday to Sunday, 83 North Koreans will also be reunited with the families they have found alive in the South at the resort.

"Blood ties don't disappear, even after all this time", Soon-ok replied.

Before leaving for the meeting, Lee told AFP: "I never imagined this day would come".

"I share fully with the disappointment of those who are not selected so I am trying with North Korean partners to try and find other solutions, huge numbers are waiting, the numbers are very much limited", he said. "Let's live together even at least one minute after unification before we die", the woman said tearfully.

Reunion events between the two countries began in 1985.

Clasping one another, they tried to bridge the decades of separation through precious physical contact and by showing each other pictures of their relatives.

For many participants these reunions represent the first news they have had of their relatives in almost seven decades.

The oldest participant this year, Baik Sung-kyu, is 101, and will meet his daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

Only seven families are reuniting with their immediate family members, like parents and children.

The three-day reunion is the first for three years and follows a diplomatic thaw on the peninsula.


But on Monday, 92-year-old Lee Keum-seom of South Korea traveled across the border and got to meet and hug her son Sang Chol, now 71 himself. Monday's event included the families of a prisoner of war and five people abducted by North Korean authorities during the conflict - though six South Koreans they had hoped to meet had died.

During the three years since the reunions were last held, the North tested three nuclear weapons and many missiles, some of which could potentially reach the continental United States. It was then framed for them so they could then take it to North Korea as a gift.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to restart the reunions at a summit with Moon in April.

Her son is now 71.

They cried loudly for several minutes, before finally settling into conversation.

On seeing him however, there was no hesitation, and the two elderly Koreans embraced each other tightly, both in tears. Agreeing that the two nations should be reunified, the younger man exclaimed: "American bastards should be expelled", adding: "Look, uncle, they are not carrying out the Singapore agreement". The ministry estimates there are now about 600,000 to 700,000 South Koreans with immediate or extended relatives in North Korea.

Ahn Seung-chun was headed to North Korea to see family members she's never met.

"What they told me was shaped by the communist regime", the 90-year-old said.

"It was hard to say goodbye. In fact, meeting them for that little moment made me miss them more ardently than before", she said in an interview.

More than 130,000 South Koreans have signed up for a reunion since the events began but majority have since died.

In a statement Monday, President Moon urged both Koreas to work towards more reunions in future, noting his own family history as the child of North Korean refugees.

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