Tears as separated Korean families meet for first time in decades

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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.

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

Families reunite
South Korean Cho Hye-do, 86, centre, hugs her North Korean sister Cho Sun Do, 89, right, during the Separated Family Reunion Meeting (AP)

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.

Korean families reunite
People had not seen their relatives since the 1950s (AP)

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.

Family reconciliations
The move is part of increased reconciliation efforts (AP)

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.

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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