Emotional scenes as separated Korean families reunited for the first time in decades

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Emotional scenes as separated Korean families reunited for the first time in decades


South Korean Lee Keum-seom, 92, left, weeps as she meets with her North Korean son Ri Sang Chol, 71, during the Separated Family Reunion Meeting
(Korea Pool Photo via AP)
South Korean Lee Keum-seom, 92, left, weeps as she meets with her North Korean son Ri Sang Chol, 71, during the Separated Family Reunion Meeting
(Korea Pool Photo via AP)
South Korean Han Shin-ja, 99, right, weeps with her North Korean daughters Kim Kim Kyong Yong, 71, and Kim Kyong Sil, 72
(Korea Pool Photo via AP)
South Korean Cho Hye-do, 86, center, hugs her North Korean sister Cho Sun Do, 89
(Lee Ji-eun/Yonhap via AP)
South Korean Kim Kwang-ho, 79, left, talks with his North Korean brother Kim Kwan Il, 78
(Lee Ji-eun/Yonhap via AP)
South Korean Lee Keum-seom, 92, left, weeps with her North Korean son Ri Sang Chol, 71
(Lee Ji-eun/Yonhap via AP)
South Korean Han Shin-ja, 99, center, meets with her North Korean daughter Kim Kim Kyong Yong, 71, and Kim Kyong Sil, 72 (Korea Pool Photo via AP)

Dozens of elderly South Koreans have crossed the border into the North to meet relatives for the first time since they were driven apart during the 1950-53 Korean war.

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

One 92-year-old South Korean woman wept and stroked the wrinkled cheeks of her 71-year-old North Korean son.

As they met, Lee Keum-seom asked her son Ri Sang Chol: “How many children do you have? Do you have a son?”

Hugging the woman he’d last seen as a child, Mr Ri showed his mother a photo of her late husband, who had stayed behind in the North with him as a boy.

The week-long event is the first of its kind in nearly three years, and was arranged as part of diplomatic efforts to resolve a stand-off over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Most of the participants in the reunions are in their 70s or older and are eager to see their loved ones once more before they die.

Most have had no word on whether their relatives are still alive because they are not allowed to visit each other across the border or even exchange letters, phone calls or emails.

About 90 elderly South Koreans, accompanied by their family members, will have three days of meetings with their North Korean relatives before returning to the South on Wednesday. A separate round of reunions from Friday to Sunday will involve more than 300 other South Koreans, according to Seoul’s unification ministry.

During Monday’s meetings, many elderly Koreans held each other’s hands and wiped away tears while asking how their relatives had lived. They showed photos of family members who were not able to attend the meetings.

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.

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Not knowing their separation would be permanent, she had left them behind in the North during the war while fleeing south with her third and youngest daughter.

Before this week’s reunions, nearly 20,000 people had participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face reunions since 2000. Another 3,700 exchanged video messages with their North Korean relatives. None of them had a second chance to see or talk with their relatives.

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