Thursday, February 27, 2020 | ePaper

Tears as North and South Koreans meet after decades

  • Print


South Korean Lee Keum-seom (L), 92, meets with her North Korean son Ri Sung Chol (R), 71, during a separated family reunion meeting at the Mount Kumgang resort on the North's southeastern coast on Monday.

AFP, Sokcho :
 With tears and cries, dozens of elderly and frail South and North Korean family members met on Monday for the first time since the peninsula and their relationships were torn apart by war nearly 70 years ago.
Clasping one another, they tried to bridge the decades of separation through precious physical contact and by showing each other pictures of their relatives.
Many of the North Korean women were clad in traditional dresses, known as hanbok in the South and joseon-ot in the North, and all had the ubiquitous badges of the North's founder Kim Il Sung or his son and successor Kim Jong Il, while the Southerners wore their best suits.
As soon as 99-year-old South Korean Han Shin-ja approached their table, her two daughters-aged 69 and 72 -- bowed their heads deeply towards her and burst into tears.
Han also broke down, rubbing her cheeks against theirs and holding their hands tightly.
"When I fled during the war..." she began, choking back tears as if she were about to apologise for leaving them behind.
Millions of people were swept apart by the 1950-53 Korean War, which separated brothers and sisters, parents and children and husbands and wives.
Hostilities ceased with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically still at war and the peninsula split by the impenetrable Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), with all direct civilian exchanges-even mundane family news-banned.
The three-day reunion at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort in North Korea, is the first for three years and follows a diplomatic thaw on the peninsula.
According to pool reports, the event began with a popular North Korean song "Nice to meet you"-also well known in the South-blaring out from speakers.
Lee Keum-seom, now tiny and frail at 92, met her son for the first time since she and her infant daughter were separated from him and her husband as they fled.
At the time Ri Sang Chol was aged just four. Lee shouted his name when she saw the now 71-year-old, before hugging him as both were overcome with emotion.
Her son showed her pictures of his family in the North-including her late husband-telling her: "This is a photo of father."
Before leaving for the meeting, Lee told AFP: "I never imagined this day would come. I didn't even know if he was alive or not."
With time taking its toll, such parent-child reunions have become rare.
Since 2000 the two nations have held 20 rounds of reunions but most of the more than 130,000 Southerners who signed up for a reunion since the events began have since died.
More than half the survivors are over 80, with this year's oldest participant Baik Sung-kyu aged 101.
South Korean Park Ki-dong, 82, met his two North Korean siblings, who had brought dozens of family photos with them.
Pak Sam Dong pointed at one of the images, telling his brother: "This is you."
The older man stared at the picture silently, deep in thought, while his North Korean sister quietly wiped tears from her eyes.
The reunions are resuming after a three-year hiatus as the North accelerated its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and relations worsened.
But after a rapid diplomatic thaw the North's leader Kim Jong Un and the South's President Moon Jae-in agreed to restart them at their first summit in April in the DMZ.
The two Koreas have since discussed cooperation in various fields at meetings between officials.
But while Kim and US President Donald Trump held a landmark summit in Singapore in June, Pyongyang has yet to make clear what concessions it is willing to make on its nuclear arsenal, while Washington is looking to maintain sanctions pressure on it.

More News For this Category

Sanders calls Netanyahu 'reactionary racist'

Sanders calls Netanyahu 'reactionary racist'

The Independent :Bernie Sanders has called Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "reactionary racist", while saying he supports Israel during the latest Democratic debate.Mr Sanders, who is one of the

Turkey, Russia to hold more talks to reduce Syria tensions

Turkey, Russia to hold more talks to reduce Syria tensions

AP, Ankara :Turkey's president announced Tuesday that a Russian delegation would arrive the following day to resume talks aimed at easing tensions in northwestern Syria. He also said no consensus

Indian authorities scramble to give Trump a mega-rally

Indian authorities scramble to give Trump a mega-rally

AP, Ahmedabad : The sun-baked city of Ahmedabad was jostling with activity Sunday as workers cleaned roads, planted flowers and hoisted hundreds of billboards featuring President Donald Trump, a day ahead

Pope appears to give thumbs down to Trump's Mideast peace plan

Pope appears to give thumbs down to Trump's Mideast peace plan

Reuters, Bari, Italy  :Pope Francis on Sunday warned against "inequitable solutions" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to

Vietnamese dissident monk who was a Nobel Prize nominee dies at 93

Vietnamese dissident monk who was a Nobel Prize nominee dies at 93

AFP :Thich Quang Do, a dissident Buddhist monk who has effectively been under house arrest since 2003 and was nominated multiple times for the Nobel Peace Prize, has died aged

UN chief urges new transit point for aid to Syria

UN chief urges new transit point for aid to Syria

AFP, United Nations :UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres has urged the Security Council to authorize a new passage point on the Turkish border to allow humanitarian aid to reach the

Trump congratulates Democrat Bernie Sanders for Nevada caucuses win

Trump congratulates Democrat Bernie Sanders for Nevada caucuses win

AFP, Las Vegas :Progressive firebrand Bernie Sanders claimed a decisive victory Saturday in the Nevada caucuses, solidifying his front-runner status in the race to choose the Democratic nominee who faces

News In Brief

Slovak PM Pellegrini cancels schedule due to illnessReuters, PragueSlovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini cancelled his agenda because of sudden illness, his office said on Sunday, just one week ahead of

Sanders condemns Russian interference in 2020 elections

Sanders condemns Russian interference in 2020 elections

Agencies :Bernie Sanders on Friday condemned Russian interference in the 2020 election, telling Russia President Vladimir Putin that "if elected president, trust me, you are not going to be interfering

China's President  expresses  thanks to Bill Gates help for tackling virus epidemic

China's President expresses thanks to Bill Gates help for tackling virus epidemic

AFP, Beijing :Chinese President Xi Jinping has written a letter expressing thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the organisation's "generosity" and support tackling a deadly virus epidemic,