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North and South Korean families gather decades after the war



It was 68 years since Hwang Woo Seok was separated from his daughter on the Korean Peninsula after the outbreak of the war. When the couple met for the first time on Monday, the 89-year-old did not know what to expect. Now, 71, Hwang's daughter had her own daughter, and she spoke a pronounced dialect after she moved to a northern province of North Korea shortly after the war. "I left when she was three, so she had no memories of me," Hwang said.

He received news only a month ago that his daughter was alive; He also learned that his three younger sisters had died. During a series of five short meetings this week, Hwang, his daughter Hwang Young Sook, and his granddaughter Koh Ok Hwa ate and studied photos and achieved a passing familiarity before being taken back to his homeland in South Korea. "I felt that she was like my father," Hwang TIME said a few hours after leaving his daughter, "but after seeing her mother's picture, she takes her mother with her." Flowing tears, joy and unbelief marked the reunification of the scores of North and South Korean relatives who were living in 89 families this week after being separated from the war more than six decades ago. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are the hours-long family gatherings in the North Korean tourist resort of Mount Kumgang ̵

1; followed by a second round of meetings from Friday to Sunday – signs of growing relaxation between Seoul and Pyongyang and a reminder of the conflict

  South Korean Lee Geum-Sum , 92 (on the bus), waves to her North Korean son Lee Sung-chul (71) at the end of a three-day family reunion in Mount Kumgang, North Korea on August 22, 2018.

South Korea's Lee Geum-Sum, 92 (on the bus) waves her hand North Korean son Lee Sung-Chul, 71, at the end of a three-day family reunion meeting in Mount Kumgang, North Korea on August 22, 2018.

O Jong-Chan-Korea Basin / Getty Images

Although the two Koreas have been in the past Allowing occasional meetings between alienated family members (the last time in 2015), there were ten thousands of war survivors staying by a heavily fortified entmilitaris Separated zone that is often uncertain Your relatives are dead or alive

Read more: U.S. Veterans Remember the Dead as Coffins Waiting for the Korean War

With the oldest South Korean in the first round of the Reunion at the age of 101, the event was a poignant reminder that time is passing to bring these long-lost relatives together , In fact, Hwang, his daughter, and his granddaughter were in the minority: according to the BBC, only seven of the planned reunions between immediate family members such as parents and children were the remainder between distant relatives.

Why are the reunions happening now?

Prior to this week's meetings, 20 similar events had occurred. But since last October 2015, three years have passed.

The resumption of reunification followed the pledges of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a April session in which they pledged to hold a meeting called the New Era of Peace on the Korean Peninsula. The two leaders met again in May and are expected to meet next month for a third inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang.

More: & # 39; The Korean War is over. & # 39; Kim Jong Un Begins "Writing a New History as the First North Korean Leader to the South

A historic meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump on June 12 triggered similar reconciliation statements, but there are serious doubts North Korea's denationalization. On August 20, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Pyongyang continued to develop its nuclear weapons program, calling the country's actions and recent statements "a cause for great concern."

How were people chosen? Weekly meetings

Millions of Koreans were separated by the Korean War of 1950-1953, and since the first reunification in 2000, more than 130,000 Southerners have reported for similar events – more than half of them reportedly died in the decades since , The South Koreans, who met with relatives this week, were selected by lottery of about 57,000 survivors

South Korea carried about 330 people from 89 families across the 38th parallel to the north, many in wheelchairs. There they met with 185 North Koreans for the three-day event facilitated by the Red Cross, reports Reuters. Originally, 93 North and South Korean families were scheduled to meet over the three days, but four from the South moved out for health reasons.

Hwang tells TIME that although he received confirmation that his daughter was living on July 25, The Controversy arose around 12 North Korean waitresses who might have been forced to make mistakes and talk about the National Assembly's Reconsideration made him wonder if she would "really take the place until the last minute."

  North Koreans wave to their South Korean family for a separate family reunion on August 22, 2018 in Mount Kumgang, North Korea.

North Koreans encourage their South Korean family to come home after a separate family reunion in Mount Kumgang, North Korea on August 22, 2018.

O Jong-chan-korea pool / Getty Images

Another 300 Koreans and 83 North Koreans Expected to Travel to Mount Kumgang for Further Meetings According to the South Korean news agency Yonhap

"It is a shame for both governments that many families have died without knowing if their lost relatives are still alive," he said South Korean President Moon Jae-in the Presidential Secretaries. "Expanding and accelerating family gatherings is a top priority in humanitarian projects undertaken by the two Koreas."

What happened when they met?

Most meetings would have been closely monitored During the three days, a total of approximately 11 hours were spent face-to-face – group meetings, joint dinners and private gatherings in hotel rooms for a few hours each. Three recently returned South Koreans told TIME they had avoided discussing politics with their relatives in the north.

"Tears came first of all, the tears we encountered rolled down the moment we met." – Lim Eung bok, 77, met his sister-in-law and nephew before returning home

Because they never met seen or not seen before For six decades, the organizers have commissioned related relatives. "There was number 74 on my sister-in-law's and my nephew's name tag, so I immediately knew who they were," says Jung Hak Bald, 81. "I had hoped that my nephew would take over my brother, but he resembled him at all not. "

  South Korean Lee Geum-Sum, 92, speaks with her North Korean son Lee Sung-Chul, 71, at the last meeting of a separate family gathering in Mount Kumgang, North Korea, on August 22, 2018.

South Korean Lee Geum-Sum, 92, speaks with her North Korean son Lee Sung-chul, 71, at the recent meeting of a separate family reunion in Mount Kumgang, North Korea on August 8, 22, 2018.

O Jong-chan-korea Pool / Getty Images

On Wednesday, the older South Korean visitors said goodbye and ate a last lunch before driving home. They presented gifts to their northern relatives that included basic necessities such as painkillers, toothpaste, and underwear. Some had exchanged photos depicting other long-lost relatives. "My sister-in-law and my nephew did not give me their phone number, now that I think about it," says Jung. "They live in the countryside, so they probably do not even have a phone number, and I'll probably never see them again."

Hwang also doubted he would see his daughter again. But since he had made it to 89, he hoped that she could meet again with his 50-year-old son. "The next generations can meet when Korea is united," he said. "So I told her, & # 39; live for another 20 years. & # 39;

– With reports by Ha Yeon Kim / Seoul


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