More than 100 elderly South Koreans travelled through falling snow to North Korea’s Diamond Mountain to reunite with relatives they had not seen since the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953. About 180 North Koreans were also expected, Seoul has said.
Elderly women in traditional hanbok dresses were seen on South Korean TV talking and hugging at the resort while stooped men wiped away tears. The reunions however are due to be short lived as the families are once again expected to part in a few days.
More reunions are planned until Tuesday. This round of reunions over the world’s most heavily fortified border, the first since 2010, comes amid a North Korean charm offensive.
Among the South Koreans making the journey to the reunion was octogenarian Jang Choon, who bought a new suit before he finally made it to North Korea to meet the family he has not seen since the war.
Meanwhile, Kim Dong-bin, a 78-year-old diagnosed with lung cancer last September, has been undergoing chemotherapy, which he said would allow him to meet the elder sister he was separated from more than 60 years ago, before he dies.
Kim, who fled south when he was 16, fearing U.S. attacks on Pyongyang during the war, said: ‘I am afraid my family in North Korea might still think I came to the South to live a good life for me alone.
‘Before I die, I must explain that I did not abandon my family, that I was swept up by the refugee flow during the chaos. Resolving this misunderstanding is the first thing I want to do in person with my sister,’ he said.
The reunions used to be held roughly annually, but have not taken place since 2010 as tensions between the two Koreas spiralled after the South said the North sank one of its naval vessels. In later months, the North shelled a South Korean island and Pyongyang threatened nuclear attacks last year.