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Dozens of elderly South Koreans have left the heavily fortified border with North Korea on Monday for heart-wrenching meetings with relatives most of whom have not seen since they were separated by the Korean War riots.
The week-long event at North Korea's Diamond Mountain Resort, like the rival Koreans, is fueling reconciliation efforts in the midst of a diplomatic push to resolve a stalemate over North Korea's efforts for a nuclear weapons program that can reliably target the continental United States.
The temporary meetings are very emotional, as most of the participants are elderly people who want to see their loved one more before they die. Most of their families were scattered during the Korean War between 1
Buses with about 90 elderly South Koreans and their family members moved to the Diamond Mountain Resort after crossing North Korea. In the early morning, the South Koreans, some in wheelchairs and assisted by Red Cross staff, left the buses for a short time to enter the South Korean immigration office in the eastern border town of Goseong.
They should meet again with their longtime colleagues. lost North Korean relatives on Monday afternoon at the beginning of a three-day reunion. According to the Seoul Ministry of Reunification, more than 300 other South Koreans will meet in a separate round from Friday to Sunday.
Past meetings have produced strong images of older Koreans crying, hugging and caressing each other. Almost 20,000 people have participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face meetings since 2000. Another 3,700 exchanged video messages with their North Korean relatives on a short-lived 2005-2007 communication program.
Nobody Had a Second Chance
Many of the South Korean participants are North Korean-born war refugees who meet their siblings or the small children they left behind, many of them now in their 70s.
Park Hong-seo, an 88-year-old Korean war veteran from the southern city of Daegu, said he had always wondered if he had faced his older brother in battle.
After graduating from a university in Seoul, Parks' brother settled in the North Korean coasts in 1946. After the war broke out, Park was told by a co-worker that his brother refused to flee to the south because he had a family North had and was a surgeon in the North Korean army.
Park fought for the South as a student soldier and was among the Allied forces that Wonsan took over in October 1950. The US-led forces moved northward in the following weeks before being driven back by a mass of Chinese forces after Beijing intervened in the conflict.
Park learned that his brother died in 1984. At Diamond Mountain, he meets his 74th and 69th Korean nephews and niece.
"I would like to ask her what his last wish was and what he said about me, Park said in a telephone interview last week." I wonder if there's a chance he saw me when I was in Wonsan . "
During the three years since the last reunification, the North tested three nuclear weapons and several missiles that showed they could potentially hit the continental United States
North Korea has switched to diplomacy in recent months, leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a son of North Korean war refugees, agreed to resume the gathering at the first of their two summits in April this year.
South Korea considers the separated families as the largest humanitarian issues facing The war has come and millions of people killed and injured and the division of the Korean peninsula in the north and south cementi The ministry estimates that there are currently about 600,000 to 700,000 South Koreans with direct or extended relatives in North Korea.
However, Seoul has failed to persuade Pyongyang to accept its long-standing call for more frequent meetings with more participants. The limited number of reunions can not meet the demands of shared family members, who are now mostly in their 80s and 90s, South Korean officials say. More than 75,000 of the 132,000 South Koreans applying to attend meetings have died according to the Seoul Ministry
Analysts say that North Korea views reunification as an important bargaining chip and does not want it to be expanded the world outside. While South Korea uses a computerized lottery to select participants for reunification, North Korea is likely to be chosen on the basis of loyalty to its authoritarian leadership.
Chang reported from Goseong, South Korea. AP author Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul has contributed to this report.