Korean Families Separated by War to Reunite Briefly After 65 Years

North Korea to host emotional family reunions

"It is a shame for both governments in the South and the North that numerous families have passed away without knowing whether or not their lost relatives were alive", he said.

"It is a shame for both governments in the South and the North that numerous families have passed away without knowing whether or not their lost relatives were alive", Mr. Moon told a meeting with presidential secretaries.

The South Korean participants are mostly in their 70s and 80s, with a 101-year-old woman the oldest.

Han also broke down, rubbing her cheeks against theirs and holding their hands tightly.

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.

The separated families are victims of a decades-long standoff between the neighbors, which has escalated over the past several years as Pyongyang rapidly advanced its nuclear weapons and missile programs. While there were initially 132,124 South Korean members registered in a government database, only 56,990 remained alive as of August.

At the time Ri Sang-chol was just four. One family in the video shows a mother and her son, who are now aged 92 and 71, respectively.

The South Korean families, 89 applicants usually with two or three relatives accompanying them, were bused across the border on Monday morning to the North Korean resort of Mount Kumgang.

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

"I didn't even know if he was alive or not". And time is running out, with many of them aged 80 or older.

The two Koreas have held 20 rounds of face-to-face family reunions since the first-ever inter-Korean summit in 2000. The South Korean government continues to say they defected voluntarily but the North claims they were kidnapped by Seoul's spy agency during the former conservative Park Geun-hye administration.

South Korean Ham Sung-chan (R), 93, hugs his North Korean brother Ham Dong Chan (L), 79, during a separated family reunion meeting at the Mount Kumgang resort on the North's southeastern coast on August 20, 2018.

Pak Sam Dong pointed at one of the images, telling his brother: "This is you".

Min Byeong-hyun, 82, couldn't believe his eyes when he saw his younger sister, Dok-yo, 72.

North Korea is reluctant to accept calls for more reunions. This year's reunion marks the 21st program, and many hope to arrange more periodic reunions to bring families together before it is too late.

The event, which is facilitated by the Red Cross, was one outcome of a historic visit between North Korea's Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April.

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. On Monday morning, numerous South Korean participants were in wheelchairs or helped by family members or support staff as they arrived at a Seoul immigration office.

Families at previous reunions have often found it a bitter-sweet experience.

The temporary reunions are highly emotional because most participants are elderly people eager to see their loved ones once more before they die.

The families will only be able to see each other for a few hours over three days.

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