SEOUL, South Korea — The 92-year-old South Korean lady wept and stroked the wrinkled cheeks of her 71-year-old North Korean son on Monday. It was their first assembly since they have beenthrough the turmoil of the 1950-53 Korean Conflict.
“What number of youngsters do you might have? Do you might have a son?” Lee Keum-seom requested her son Ri Sang Chol throughout their long-awaited encounter on the North’s Diamond Mountain resort.
The emotional reunion got here after dozens of aged South Koreans crossed the closely fortified border into North Korea to fulfill quickly with their family members. The weeklong occasion, the primary of its sort in practically three years, was organized because the rival Koreas enhance reconciliation efforts amid a diplomatic push to resolve a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Hugging the lady he’d final seen when he was four, Ri confirmed his mom a photograph of her late husband, who had stayed behind in North Korea with him after being separated from his spouse whereas fleeing south. “Mom, that is how my father seemed,” Ri mentioned.
Earlier than leaving for North Korea, Lee mentioned she needed to ask her son “how he grew up with out his mother and the way his father raised him.”
A lot of the contributors within the reunions are of their 70s or older and are desperate to see their family members as soon as extra earlier than they die. Most have had no phrase on whether or not their family members are nonetheless alive as a result of they aren’t allowed to go to one another throughout the border and even change letters, telephone calls or e-mail.
“How are you so outdated?” Kim Dal-in, 92, requested his sister, Yu Dok, Reuters information company reviews. “I’ve lived this lengthy to fulfill you,” the 85-year-old mentioned as she wiped away tears.
About 90 aged South Koreans, accompanied by their members of the family, can have three days of conferences with their North Korean family members earlier than returning to the South on Wednesday. A separate spherical of reunions from Friday to Sunday will contain greater than 300 different South Koreans, based on Seoul’s Unification Ministry.
Throughout Monday’s assembly, many aged Koreans held one another’s arms and wiped away tears with handkerchiefs whereas asking how their family members had lived. They confirmed photographs of members of the family who could not come to their conferences.
Han Shin-ja, a 99-year-old South Korean lady, was perplexed after she reunited along with her two North Korean daughters, each of their early 70s. Not figuring out their separation can be everlasting, she left them behind within the North through the conflict whereas fleeing south along with her third and youngest daughter.
She may solely say “Ah” and “Once I fled…” earlier than choking up with tears.
Kim Solar Okay, an 81-year-old North Korean lady, mentioned she discovered that she and her 88-year-old brother from South Korea resembled one another an amazing deal. “Brother, it will be actually good if Korean unification comes. Let’s dwell collectively even a minimum of one minute after unification earlier than we die,” the lady mentioned tearfully.
Earlier than this week’s reunions, practically 20,000 folks had participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face reunions since 2000. One other three,700 exchanged video messages with their North Korean family members. None have had a second probability to see or speak with their family members.
Moon Hyun-sook, 91, mentioned she gathered garments, cosmetics and medication to offer to her two sisters, Reuters reviews. “At any time when I noticed fairly garments, I at all times thought how cute they’d look in them,” she mentioned.
Throughout the three years for the reason that reunions have been final held, North Korea examined three nuclear weapons and a number of missiles that demonstrated they probably may strike the continental United States.
North Korea has shifted to diplomacy in latest months. Chief Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a son of North Korean conflict refugees, agreed to renew the reunions through the first of their two summits this yr in April.
South Korea sees the separated households as the biggest humanitarian problem created by the conflict, which killed and injured thousands and thousands and cemented the division of the Korean Peninsula into the North and South. The Unification Ministry estimates there are presently about 600,000 to 700,000 South Koreans with rapid or prolonged family members in North Korea. Greater than 75,000 of the 132,000 South Koreans who’ve utilized to take part in reunions have died, based on a ministry report.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday reiterated that point is operating out to increase the reunion program, saying it will be a “shameful factor” for each Koreas to see many aged folks dying with out even discovering out whether or not their family members are nonetheless alive.
Moon attended a 2004 reunion to fulfill his aunt. “As a separated member of the family, I deeply share their sorrow and pitifulness,” he mentioned throughout a gathering along with his aides.
North Korea is reluctant to just accept requires extra reunions. Analysts say it sees the reunions as an necessary bargaining chip and believes extra reunions would give its folks a greater consciousness of the surface world. Whereas South Korea makes use of a computerized lottery to choose contributors for the reunions, North Korea is believed to decide on based mostly on loyalty to its authoritarian management.