Korean family reunions bring long-separated elders to tears – National

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The 92-year-old South Korean lady wept and stroked the wrinkled cheeks of her 71-year-old North Korean son on Monday, their first assembly since they had been pushed aside throughout the turmoil of the 1950-53 Korean Battle.

“What number of kids do you will have? Do you will have a son?” Lee Keum-seom requested her son Ri Sang Chol throughout their long-awaited encounter on the North’s Diamond Mountain resort.

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The emotional reunion got here after dozens of aged South Koreans crossed the closely fortified border into North Korea to fulfill with their kinfolk. The weeklong occasion, the primary of its form in practically three years, was organized because the rival Koreas enhance reconciliation efforts amid a diplomatic push to resolve a standoff over North Korea’s drive for a nuclear weapons program.

Hugging the lady he’d final seen as a baby, Ri confirmed his mom a photograph of her late husband, who had stayed behind within the North with him as a boy.


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A lot of the members within the reunions are of their 70s or older and are wanting to see their family members as soon as extra earlier than they die. Most have had no phrase on whether or not their kinfolk are nonetheless alive as a result of they aren’t allowed to go to one another throughout the border and even change letters, telephone calls or electronic mail.

About 90 aged South Koreans, accompanied by their relations, can have three days of conferences with their North Korean kinfolk earlier than returning to the South on Wednesday. A separate spherical of reunions from Friday to Sunday will contain greater than 300 different South Koreans, in response to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

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Throughout Monday’s assembly, many aged Koreans held one another’s palms and wiped away tears with handkerchiefs whereas asking how their kinfolk had lived. They confirmed images of relations who couldn’t come to their conferences.

Han Shin-ja, a 99-year-old South Korean lady, was perplexed after she reunited together with her two North Korean daughters, each of their early 70s. Not understanding their separation could be everlasting, she left them behind within the North throughout the battle whereas fleeing south together with her third and youngest daughter.

She might solely say “Ah” and “After I fled …” earlier than choking up with tears.

Earlier than this week’s reunions, practically 20,000 folks had participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face reunions since 2000. One other three,700 exchanged video messages with their North Korean kinfolk. None of them has had a second likelihood to see or speak with their kinfolk.

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In the course of the three years because the reunions had been final held, the North examined three nuclear weapons and a number of missiles that demonstrated they doubtlessly might strike the continental United States.

North Korea has shifted to diplomacy in current months. Chief Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a son of North Korean battle refugees, agreed to renew the reunions throughout the first of their two summits this 12 months in April.

South Korea sees the separated households as the biggest humanitarian challenge created by the battle, which killed and injured thousands and thousands and cemented the division of the Korean Peninsula into the North and South. The Unification Ministry estimates there are at present about 600,000 to 700,000 South Koreans with fast or prolonged kinfolk in North Korea.

However Seoul has failed to steer Pyongyang to simply accept its long-standing name for extra frequent reunions with extra members. Greater than 75,000 of the 132,000 South Koreans who’ve utilized to take part in reunions have died, in response to the South Korean authorities.

Analysts say North Korea sees the reunions as an essential bargaining chip and doesn’t need them expanded as a result of they provide its folks higher consciousness of the surface world. Whereas South Korea makes use of a computerized lottery to choose members for the reunions, North Korea is believed to decide on based mostly on loyalty to its authoritarian management.

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