Elderly South Koreans to reunite with relatives in North

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Dozens of elderly South Koreans have travelled to the border with the North to reunite with relatives they were separated from during the Korean War.

They set off for North Korea on Monday to meet their relatives for the first time in nearly seven decades since the conflict divided the peninsula.

It is the start of a week-long event at North Korea’s Diamond Mountain resort.

It comes as the rival Koreas boost reconciliation efforts amid a diplomatic push to resolve a standoff over North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

A man who has been selected as a participant for a reunion holds an old picture at a hotel used as a waiting place in Sokcho, South Korea, August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji  Elderly South Koreans to reunite with relatives in North skynews south korea north korea 4395280
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The war saw the separation of children from their parents, husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters

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

The war saw the separation of children from their parents, husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters.

Nearly 20,000 people have participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face reunions held between the countries since 2000.

This is the first in three years.

The 89 elderly South Koreans were put into 14 coaches in Sokcho

Lee Keum-seom, 92, was waiting to see the son she left behind.

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.

Her son is now 71.

“I never imagined this day would come,” she said. “I didn’t even know if he was alive or not.”

North and South Korea are technically still in a state of war because the conflict ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

Kim Hyun-sook poses for photographs with an old photo showing her daughters, during an interview with Reuters at her home in Seoul, South Korea, August 2, 2018. Picture taken August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji  Elderly South Koreans to reunite with relatives in North skynews north korea south korea 4395278
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More than 130,000 South Koreans have signed up for a reunion

As a consequence, all civilian exchanges are banned, so families on either side have never been able to communicate.

However, time is running out for many ageing family members.

More than 130,000 South Koreans have signed up for a reunion since the events began but most of them have since died.

The oldest participant this year, Baik Sung-kyu, is 101, and will meet his daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

He said he had packed clothes, underwear, 30 pairs of shoes, toothbrush and toothpaste as gifts.

“I also brought 20 stainless spoons,” he added.

“I bought everything because it’s my last time.”



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