Separated for over six decades, tears and joy at Korean reunions

Thu Feb 20, 2014 10:51am EST
 
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By Michelle Kim and Narae Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - More than 100 South Koreans, many of them on wheelchairs, crossed the world's most heavily fortified border on Thursday to be reunited with family members living in the North whom they have not seen since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The reunions were held after the North set aside a demand for the suspension of joint military drills by the South and the United States, which it had demanded as a pre-condition.

At the Mount Kumgang resort just north of the border, long-lost relatives embraced with tears, joy and disbelief. Some failed to recognize family they have not seen in more than six decades.

Among the South Koreans was Jang Choon, an 81-year-old in a wheelchair who was dressed in the light brown suit and maroon tie he had bought for the reunion with a brother and a sister living in the North.

"My youngest brother Ha-choon had not even started school when I last saw him," said Jang, the eldest of four siblings, one of whom has died. "But now he's an old man like me."

The six days of family reunions take place under the cloud of a U.N. report on human rights abuses in North Korea, which investigators have said were comparable to Nazi-era atrocities. They have said North Korean security chiefs and possibly even leader Kim Jong Un himself should face international justice.

Pyongyang has rejected the report, describing it as a concoction by the United States and its allies, Japan and the European Union.

But the North appears to be willing to maintain a rapprochement with South Korea that may be crucial as it seeks food for its people.   Continued...

 
North Korean Lee Yun-geun (R), 72, hugs his South Korean sister Lee Sun-hyang, 88, during their family reunion at the Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea February 20, 2014. REUTERS/Lee Ji-eun/Yonhap