Southeast Asia | Tears, smiles, kisses and warm embraces as divided families reunite in North Korea

Tears, smiles, kisses and warm embraces as divided families reunite in North Korea

October 20, 2015 2:32 AM (UTC+8)

 

Hundreds of South Koreans arrived at a North Korean mountain resort Tuesday for meetings with their relatives separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, Yonhap reports.

Lee Soon-kyu, 85, smiles as she meets her 83-year-old former husband, Oh In-se, living in North Korea
Lee Soon-kyu, 85, smiles as she meets her 83-year-old former husband, Oh In-se, living in North Korea

There were tears, smiles, kisses and warm embraces as 389 members of 96 families began meeting with 141 North Koreans on Mount Kumgang along the communist nation’s east coast.

It marks the first inter-Korean family reunions event since February 2014, a fruit of the Aug. 25 deal between the two Koreas on ending a military standoff.

The South Koreans, mostly elderly, will stay in North Korea through Thursday for a series of six reunions that will last a total of 12 hours.

Earlier in the day, the South Koreans crossed the heavily fortified border on 16 buses. Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo saw them off at a condo in Sokcho, Gangwon Province.

Among them was 97-year-old Kwon Oh-hee who will meet his step son Ri Han-sik.

Two women — Yeom Ji-rye, 88, and Kim Sun-tak, 77 — came in ambulances due to their illnesses.

When they arrived at the Mount Geumgang resort in North Korea, their brothers ― Yeom Jin-bong, 84, and Kim Hyung-hwan, 83, were overwhelmed to see them.

Sitting in a wheel chair, Yeom unpacked a bag full of letters and photos for her elder brother who was taken to North Korea in 1951.

Kim, who relies on an oxygen cylinder to breathe, said she was not sure whether her elder brother was alive or not after he was forcibly taken to the North.

North Korean border guards closely checked the belongings of South Korean visitors, including the laptops of South Korean reporters, during the customs and quarantine procedures that took about one hour.

Another round of reunions involving 250 other South Koreans of 90 families will be held from Saturday to next Monday at the resort developed by the South’s Hyundai Group.

Nearly 130,000 South Koreans are registered in the government’s data system as having families in the North. Half of them have already died, with around 66,000 separated family members on the waiting list.

Since the first inter-Korean summit in 2000, the two Koreas have held 19 rounds of face-to-face family reunion events. There were seven rounds of video-based reunions.

 

 

 

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