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Monday, 20 August 2018

Elderly South Koreans reunite with relatives in North

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

Dozens of elderly South Koreans have travelled to the border with the North to reunite with relatives they were separated from during the Korean War.
They set off for North Korea to meet their relatives for the first time in nearly seven decades since the conflict divided the peninsula.
There were emotional scenes as reunions took place at North Korea's Diamond Mountain resort.

A 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 had 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.

Han Shin-ja, a 99-year-old South Korean woman, was lost for words as she was 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.

It comes as the rival Koreas boost reconciliation efforts amid a diplomatic push to resolve a standoff over North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

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Most of those taking part are elderly people who are eager to see their loved ones once more before they die.
The war saw the separation of husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters, and children from their parents.

Nearly 20,000 people have participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face reunions held between the countries since 2000.
This is the first in three years, with 89 elderly South Koreans put into 14 coaches in Sokcho.

Lee Keum-seom, 92, was waiting to see the son she left behind.
She lost her husband and four-year-old son as their family fled, and boarded a ferry headed for the South with only her infant daughter, who accompanied her to the reunion.
Her son is now 71.
"I never imagined this day would come," she said. "I didn't even know if he was alive or not."
North and South Korea are technically still in a state of war because the conflict ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

As a consequence, all civilian exchanges are banned, so families on either side have never been able to communicate.
However, time is running out for many ageing family members.
More than 130,000 South Koreans have signed up for a reunion since the events began but most of them have since died.
The oldest participant this year, Baik Sung-kyu, is 101, and will meet his daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
He said he had packed clothes, underwear, 30 pairs of shoes, toothbrush and toothpaste as gifts.

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