The history of Korean family reunions

The history of Korean family reunions

The history of Korean family reunions

"I really wish I could see them once more while I am alive, but I can't go to a reunion event again because I have already been once".

More than 57,000 South Korean survivors have registered for the brief family reunion which often ends in painful farewells. The room where the reunion was held was filled with hugs and tears as the participants embraced their loved ones across the border for the first time in almost 65 years.

Past reunions have produced powerful images of elderly Koreans crying, embracing and caressing each other. Twenty rounds of face-to-face family reunions have been held since the first inter-Korean summit in 2000. Another 3,700 exchanged video messages with their North Korean relatives.

A group of mostly elderly South Koreans travelled to a tourist resort in the North for the event, the first such reunion for three years.

Han Shin-ja, a 99-year-old South Korean woman, was at a loss for words after she reunited with her two North Korean daughters, both in their early 70s. For the tens of thousands still alive in the South who have not been selected for the reunions there are other ways they can contact their relatives.

Amid all the joy and happy scenes on both sides of the border this week, this is the reality for most whose families remain split by the Korean War.

"When I fled during the war." she began, choking back tears as if she were about to apologise for leaving them behind.

Park learned that his brother died in 1984.

But Jang Hae-won, 89, said he would meet his nephew and niece to reconnect with his parents who passed away in the North and offer his brother's children a glimpse of their father's life.

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92, meets with her North Korean son Ri Sung Chol (R), 71, during a separated family reunion meeting at the Mount Kumgang resort on the North's southeastern coast on August 20, 2018.

"When I fled home in the war.", Han said, faltering as she choked with emotion and left her sentence incomplete.

The separated families are victims of a decades-long standoff between the neighbours, which has escalated over the past several years as Pyongyang rapidly advanced its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

North Korea has shifted to diplomacy in recent months.

The heart-wrenching reunions, part of three-day event, are the result of an agreement reached in April between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

South Korea sees the separated families as the largest humanitarian issue created by the war, which killed and injured millions and cemented the division of the Korean Peninsula into the North and South.

From Thursday, 88 more groups of relatives will meet, comprised of 469 individuals from the South and 128 from the North, Seoul's Unification Ministry says.

In this October 22, 2015, file photo, North Korean Son Kwon Geun, (centre), weeps with his South Korean relatives as he bids farewell after the Separated Family Reunion Meeting at Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea. The second round is set to be held from Friday to Sunday with separate participants, including 83 North Korean members of separated families. This is largely due to the fact that North Korean officials did not want the people of North Korea to see the conditions of the outside world.

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