Korean Families Reunited for First Time Since Korean War

North Korea to host emotional family reunions

Hundreds of North and South Korean relatives - many now wheelchair-bound and in the twilight of their lives - met for the first time Monday since being driven apart more than six decades ago by the Korean War.

But the reunions are often also tinged with frustration, with many North Koreans determined to publicly demonstrate their allegiance to the regime, out of genuine loyalty or just fear.

During the reunions, emotions ran high in North Korean tourist resort on Mount Kumgang.

During the three years since the reunions were last held, the North tested three nuclear weapons and multiple missiles that demonstrated they potentially could strike the continental United States. Then the convoy set off, escorted by police and medical personnel, and later crossed the DMZ into the North.

Moon is himself a member of a divided family: His parents fled on a ship from the North Korean port of Hungnam in December 1950, and he accompanied his mother to meet her younger sister during an earlier family reunion in 2004.

Lee Geum-shim, now a frail 92-year-old, hadn't seen her son since she and her infant daughter were separated from him and her husband as they fled.

Sang Chol was four when she last saw him. He is now 71.

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"Look", she said. "I used to stare at this photo every single day, wondering when I could meet you".

"I'm over 90 so I don't know when I am going to die".

With time taking its toll, such parent-child reunions have become rare.

Almost 20,000 people have participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face reunions held between the countries since 2000.

More than half the survivors are over 80, with this year's oldest participant Baik Sung-kyu aged 101.

He said he had packed clothes, underwear, 30 pairs of shoes, toothbrush and toothpaste as gifts. "It's an old, shabby photo so I brought a copied version", she said with tears in her eyes.

"For me, there isn't much time left".

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Meanwhile, several people who reached their houses found it hard to control their tears seeing their dwelling in total disarray. Kollam, however, will continue to receive heavy rainfall today, but will see the intensity reducing from Monday.

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

As soon as 99-year-old South Korean Han Shin-ja approached their table, her two daughters - aged 69 and 72 - bowed their heads deeply towards her and burst into tears.

"Uncles, take my deep bow", said Seo Soon-gyo (55), as her 87-year-old father, Seo Jin-ho, met with two younger brothers, Chan Ho and Won Ho.

This is the first in three years. The family reunifications this week were seen as a result of the April summit meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The two Koreas have since discussed cooperation in various fields at meetings between officials.

During his summit with US President Donald Trump in June, Kim pledged to abandon his country's nuclear programs if Washington provided security guarantees, but the two sides have since struggled to agree on how to reach that goal.

There were emotional scenes as the reunions took place in the North's Diamond Resort, as the rival Koreas step up reconciliation efforts.

They will have only three hours in private before they are separated once again on Wednesday, in all likelihood for the final time. Lee had long assumed his brother was killed in the war, but the chance to meet is fraught with political pitfalls.

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