Nervous Korean families wait to be reunited

South Korean family reunification

North Korea to host emotional family reunions

Eighty-three North Koreans will be taking part.

Hugging the woman he'd 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. Lee, for example, asked her son how many children he had.

About 132,600 Koreans were listed as separated from their families by the end of July. "I really wish I could see them once more while I am alive, but I can't go to a reunion event again because I have already been once". These days, most separated families have no word on whether their long-lost relatives are still alive because their governments bar their citizens from visiting each other across the border or even exchanging phone calls, letters and email.

"How are you so old?"

"I've lived this long to meet you", the 85-year-old said as she wiped away tears.

About 330 South Koreans from 89 families, many in wheelchairs, embraced 185 separated relatives from the North with tears, joy and disbelief. They showed photos of family members who were not able to attend the meetings.

Lee was one of dozens of South Koreans who 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.

Not knowing their separation would be permanent, she left them behind in the North during the war while fleeing south with her third and youngest daughter.

Park Hong-seo, an 88-year-old Korean War veteran from the southern city of Daegu, said he always wondered whether he'd faced his older brother in battle.

Since 2000 the two nations have held 20 rounds of reunions but most of the more than 130,000 Southerners who signed up for a reunion since the events began have since died. Another 3,700 exchanged video messages with their North Korean relatives.

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But as those who remember the war grow old, time is running out for many of them.

Moon Hyun-sook, 91, said she put together clothes, cosmetics and medicine for her two sisters, younger than she is by 12 and 26 years.

"What they told me was shaped by the communist regime", the 90-year-old said.

During the three years since the reunions were last held, the North tested three nuclear weapons and multiple missiles that demonstrated they potentially could strike the continental United States. It was then framed for them so they could then take it to North Korea as a gift.

The event, which is facilitated by the Red Cross, is the outcome of a historic meeting between North Korea's Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the border in April. The Unification Ministry estimates there are now about 600,000 to 700,000 South Koreans with immediate or extended relatives in North Korea.

Many were war refugees who fled south during the war, leaving relatives behind. "This is the first time to see..." "As a separated family member, I deeply share their sorrow and pitifulness", he said during a meeting with his aides.

Ahn Seung-chun was headed to North Korea to see family members she's never met.

According to the AP, analysts say North Korea views the reunions as a bargaining chip, and is resistant to allowing its citizens more access to life outside their authoritarian country.

Most of the 89 participants chosen from the South are in their 70s or 80s, while the oldest is 101.

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