Hundreds of South Koreans Head North to Reunite With Their Loved Ones

Tuesday, 21 Aug, 2018

As seen in the footage, brothers and sisters who had not seen each other for about 70 years were reunited, shedding tears and holding onto one another with deep sentiments.

A man selected as a participant for a reunion shows pictures of his deceased mother and little brothers living in North Korea, at a hotel used as a waiting place in Sokcho, Gangwon Province, Aug. 19.

In South Korea, around 132,600 individuals are listed as separated families, but the Red Cross has only identified 57,000 survivors.

Tears were flowing at the emotional reunion between roughly 330 South Koreans, spanning 89 families, and 185 of their long-lost family members from the neighboring North.

Starting on Thursday, there will be a meeting of another 88 groups of relatives, 469 from the South and 128 from the North, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry. Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a son of North Korean war refugees, agreed to resume the reunions during the first of their two summits this year in April. Kim Dal-in, 92, asked his sister, Yu Dok, after gazing at her briefly in silence.

"I signed up for a reunion 30 years ago but have yet to be picked for one", 80-year-old Nam Gyu-hyeong told Al Jazeera earlier this year.

"He is very old so I really want to express my gratitude for being alive for a long time".

Thousands of South Korean families were split during the Korean War, with family members estranged for decades - nearly 60,000 people had applied for the reunion.

"I never imagined this day would come", she told AFP.

But as those who remember the war grow old, time is running out.

Because the conflict ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, the two Koreas have remained technically at war.

This time, only seven of the participants were due to be reunited with immediate family like parents or children while the rest will be meeting with close relatives like cousins.

A total of 100 people were chosen on each side to attend the reunion, but some dropped out after realising the relatives they had hoped to see were no longer alive.

Over the next three days, the 89 families will spend only about 11 hours together, mostly under the watchful eyes of North Korean agents.

Likely because of the rising interest in gaming for those in the country, North Korea has begun work on its own titles, such as the first-person shooter "Hunting Yankee", according to the U.K.'s Sunday Express.

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 was accompanying her to the reunion.

Many brought gifts like clothes, medicine and food for their relatives in the much poorer North.

But while Kim and US President Donald Trump held a landmark summit in Singapore in June, Pyongyang has yet to make clear what concessions it is willing to make on its nuclear arsenal, while Washington is looking to maintain sanctions pressure on it.

As well as the family reunions, Saturday saw the fulfillment of another commitment made by Moon and Kim, as a joint Korean team marched in the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.