South Koreans cross inter-Korean border for family reunion

South Koreans cross inter-Korean border for family reunion

With tears and cries, dozens of elderly and frail South and North Korean family members met on Monday for the first time since the peninsula, and their relationships, were torn apart by war almost 70 years ago.

The three-day reunion - the first for three years - will take place at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort in North Korea, following a rapid diplomatic thaw between the neighbors.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to restart the reunions at a summit with Moon in April.

About 330 South Koreans from 89 families, many in wheelchairs, embraced 185 separated relatives from the North with tears, joy and disbelief. Some struggled to recognise family not glimpsed in more than 60 years.

"How are you so old?" Lee shouted his name when she saw the now 71-year-old, before hugging him as both were overcome with emotion. They could not speak for minutes, wailed loudly and rubbed their cheeks and hands.

"When I fled during the war." she began, choking back tears as if she were about to apologise for leaving them behind.

More than 57,000 South Korean survivors have registered for the brief family reunion which often ends in painful farewells. Monday's event included the families of a prisoner of war and five people abducted by North Korean authorities during the conflict - though six South Koreans they had hoped to meet had died.

"Expanding and accelerating family reunions is a top priority among humanitarian projects to be carried out by the two Koreas", he said.

The separated families are victims of a decades-long political gridlock between the neighbours, which has escalated over the past several years as Pyongyang rapidly advanced its weapons programmes.

At his historic June summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in June, Kim pledged to abandon his country's nuclear programmes if Washington provided security guarantees, but the two sides have since struggled to agree how to reach that goal.

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Family visits are limited to 11 hours.

"Imagine 73 years long without knowing whether their family members are still alive or passed away - no news at all".

Buses carrying about 90 elderly South Koreans and their family members were moving into the Diamond Mountain resort after crossing into North Korea.

"I share fully with the disappointment of those who are not selected so I am trying with North Korean partners to try and find other solutions, huge numbers are waiting, the numbers are very much limited", he said.

"I tried so hard, too, searching for you for seven years", Ri told his brother.

Han Shin-ja, a 99-year-old South Korean woman, was at a loss for words after she reunited with her two North Korean daughters, both in their early 70s.

Most of those taking part are elderly people who are eager to see their loved ones once more before they die.

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.

South Korean Lee Geum-seom, 92, is helped by Red Cross officials as she arrives to take part in family reunions with her North Korean family members.

The emotional reunion came after dozens of elderly South Koreans crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea to meet temporarily with their relatives.

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