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Korean Families Separated By War Reunite Briefly

Korean Families Separated By War Reunite BrieflyKorean Families Separated By War Reunite Briefly

A group of mostly elderly South Koreans crossed into North Korea Monday to reunite with family members many have not seen nor heard from since the Korean War broke out 68 years ago.

The reunions are the first since 2015, agreed to under the Panmunjom Declaration signed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a historic summit earlier this year, CNN reported.

More than 57,000 people had been hoping to take part in the reunions, but of those only 93 families were selected, four of whom had to pull out at the last minute due to health reasons.

More than 60% of those seeking reunions are over 80 years old, and are being accompanied on the bus trip north by their children and other relatives.

The South Koreans gathered Sunday at the Hanwha resort hotel, in Sokcho, south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates the two Koreas, where medical checks were carried out and participants were warned about nuances of visiting North Korea. They are told to avoid saying anything that could be misconstrued, or considered insensitive north of the border.

Participants were applauded by Red Cross workers as they arrived, some in wheelchairs, passing under banners reading “We sincerely congratulate the reunions of the separated families!”

In the hotel there was an air of excitement and tension as they prepared to meet husbands, wives, brothers, sisters and children who are now only vague memories, their faces blurred by time.

They then registered their names and were invited to take a professional family photo in a corner of the lobby. It was then framed for them so they could then take it to North Korea as a gift.

  Bittersweet Process

In the decades since the Korean War, the Red Cross has reunited many families but thousands of others have missed out.

As family members age, each delay adds to fears that they will no longer be around to finally meet with their long lost relatives. More than 75,000 applicants have already passed away since the reunion process began.

The pain felt by the families split by the Korean War is one of the most visible legacies of the conflict which, 68 years after it began, still has not technically ended.

An armistice agreement which paused fighting in 1953 never became a formal peace treaty, and small skirmishes have happened since on either side of the heavily fortified DMZ.

 

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