See More on Facebook

Diplomacy

Two Koreas host emotional family reunions

A group of 89 elderly South Koreans met with family members they were separated from by the 1950-53 Korean War in North Korea on Monday, officially kicking off a weeklong reunion event.


Written by

Updated: August 21, 2018

They reunited with about 180 North Korean family members at Kumgangsan Resort on the eastern coast of North Korea at 3 p.m., a South Korean pool report said. They are expected to participate in a string of face-to-face meetings and meals through Wednesday. The first session lasted about two hours.

Among the group, seven people met with their offspring and 20 with siblings whom they were unable to meet after the war. The room where the reunion was held was filled with hugs and tears as the participants embraced their loved ones across the border for the first time in nearly 65 years.

Lee Geun-seom, a 92-year-old who had become separated from her son and husband during the war, hugged her now 71-year-old son as she arrived at the table where he awaited. Her son, Ri Sang-chol, shed tears of joy as he pulled out a picture of his now-deceased father. Lee grabbed his hand and asked simple questions that she had been holding back for decades, such as “how many children do you have?”

Han Shin-ja, started wailing once she saw her two daughters — now in their 70s — that she had been forced to leave behind in the North during the war. The 99-year-old remained speechless for a while and tried to apologize, which was cut short by her daughters saying “it was OK” because their aunt had taken care of them.

There were also some South Korean family members of those who were taken to North Korea as prisoners of war or allegedly kidnapped by North Korean forces. The victims had already passed away, so they talked with their North Korean relatives.

In line with the reunions, South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for regularization of the cross-border event along with implementation of measures that could expand communication between the separated families, including the exchange of letters, video calls and more, at a Cheong Wa Dae meeting Monday.

“Expanding the reunion between separated families is a top priority in the inter-Korean humanitarian agenda,” he said.

The elderly and about 300 others embarked on a trip to North Korea around 8:30 a.m. in 27 buses from Hanwha Resort in the South’s northeastern coastal city of Sokcho, where they had spent the previous night. They were briefed on protocols and procedures for the event throughout Sunday.

According to pool reports, some of the elderly in wheelchairs were supported by family members as they boarded the buses. The majority of them were spotted having breakfast before 6:30 a.m. and finalized preparations for their trip more than an hour before departure. Many had prepared gifts for their loved ones across the border, ranging from sentimental items such as family photos to practical choices such as cosmetics, toothpaste, socks and small sums of cash.

Nervous anticipation and nostalgia hung in the air among those waiting to meet their loved ones in the North, or for those who no longer have direct family members, their descendants.

“This is my last opportunity to meet my nephew,” said Lee Kwan-joo, 93, who was born in Pyongyang and came to South Korea after beingseparated from his older brother during the war.

“I’m taking my son with me for a reason: We will have to meet in order to truly become a family even after I die. This is something that can only happen in a divided country,” he added, tears swelling in his eyes.

Cha Chae-geun, who was expecting to meet his long-lost brother, said he had slept well through the night. The 84-year-old looked excited as he told the press pool he had visited the slopes of Kumgangsan before.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, who had arrived in Sokcho on Sunday, wished them well before the group crossed the border.

The 89 were to attend the first round of a two-part event from Monday to Wednesday. The second round is set to be held from Friday to Sunday with separate participants, including 83 North Korean members of separated families.

The family members will be granted around 11 hours of face-to-face meetings in each round, a ministry official previously said. The itinerary provided by the South’s Korean Red Cross showed the families would interact with each other through a series of meals, but stay and sleep in separate rooms.

Holding the event for reunions of separated families comes as part of the agreement reached by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at their landmark April summit.

The reunions were last held in October 2015 and were halted due to escalated border tensions on the back of the North’s military provocations and pursuit of nuclear weapons. Twenty rounds of face-to-face family reunions have been held since the first inter-Korean summit in 2000.

Since Moon took office last year, officials and experts have expressed concerns over the advanced age of the family members. While there were initially 132,124 South Korean members registered in a government database, only 56,990 remained alive as of August. Among them, nearly 86 percent of the group are 70 or older.

The South and North finalized the list of participants early this month. Priority was given to those who had direct family members on the other side of the border.

The two Koreas technically remain at war, as the Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Korea Herald
About the Author: The Korea Herald is the nation’s largest English-language daily and the country’s sole member of the Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy

Can Pakistan play a role in Iran-US tensions

An editorial in Dawn newspaper looks at the role that Pakistan might play in the ongoing tensions. Tensions between the US and Iran, particularly in the Gulf, are rising and the situation has sent alarm bells ringing throughout the region. It is in this context that Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Tuesday that Pakistan was “closely following the situation” and would take a stand “that best served the national interest”. Pakistan is, of course, in a sensitive position as it has decades-old, deep relations with the US, while it shares a long border with Iran. Moreover, this country’s ties with the Gulf Arabs — particularly the Saudis — who are firmly in the American camp, are also cordial and have a strategic and defence dimension. In case of any hostilities


By Dawn
May 17, 2019

Diplomacy

China vows action as US moves to blacklist Huawei

Hopes of a trade deal recede as experts fear American companies could face a backlash. China has slammed the United States for putting technology giant Huawei on an export blacklist and said it will take “all necessary measures” to protect the legal rights of Chinese firms. The latest twist in the face-off between the US and China not only suggests that hopes of a trade deal are fast evaporating, but it could also delay the roll-out of 5G networks worldwide. US technology firms could also face a backlash, experts said. China’s Ministry of Commerce said yesterday that it resolutely opposed any coun


By The Straits Times
May 17, 2019

Diplomacy

Beijing stresses equality in trade talks with Washington

World market confidence dampened by escalation, Chinese state media says. Consultations between China and the United States are not a one-way street, and should be conducted amid a spirit of equality, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday in Russia. Wang said that it is pointless for one side to blame the other, or even to absolve themselves from responsibility. Wang stressed if one side is trying to place extreme pressure on the other, it will cause a legitimate counterattack. “The measures from us are not only to safeguard China’s own rights, but to protect the basic rules of the current multilateral trading mechanism,” Wang said. Wang made the remark in a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov during his visit to the Black Sea coastal city of Sochi. Experts warned that the rising US tariffs on Ch


By China Daily
May 16, 2019

Diplomacy

Beijing vows retaliation on US trade

Ministry expresses ‘deep regrets’ in wake of added tariffs on Chinese goods. The Ministry of Commerce expressed “deep regrets” on Friday at the United States’ move to impose additional tariffs on Chinese imports and vowed to take necessary countermeasures. The comments came shortly after the US increased the rate of additional duties on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports from 10 percent to 25 percent, a move that economists said amounts to “typical trade bullying” that will backfire to hurt its own interests. The commerce ministry said in a statement that the 11th round of China-US high-level economic and trade consultations are underway, and China hopes the two sides can work together to resolve existing issues cooperatively. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily news briefing that a healthy and stable Sino-US relationship serves the


By China Daily
May 13, 2019

Diplomacy

India’s political parties and their foreign policy platform

Where do India’s major political parties stand on foreign policy issues in Elections 2019. Foreign policy debates have historically been foreign to Indian election campaigns. But photo-ops with international leaders are always welcome because they help burnish the credentials of politicians with the domestic audience. Images of India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru rubbing shoulders with Presidents Sukarno and Nasser of Indonesia and Egypt, respectively, at the Asia-Africa Bandung Conference in 1955 certainly did his image as a world statesman no harm. The television broadcast of his daughter, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, being enveloped in a surprise bear hug by ‘elder brother’ Fidel Castro at the 1983 Non-Aligned Movement Conference in New Delhi, was widely thought to have humanised the otherwise aloof Mrs G for millions in India. In more recent times, Rajiv Gandhi’s


By Ishan Joshi
May 13, 2019

Diplomacy

North Korea launches two projectiles, assumed to be short-range missiles

The tests comes amid increased tensions with the United States. North Korea fired two projectiles that appeared to be short-range missiles on Thursday, less than a week after it conducted what it claimed was a “regular military drill.” Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said launches of what appeared to be short-range missiles took place at 4:29 p.m. and 4:49 p.m. in Kusong, North Pyongan Province. It had initially said they were launched at Sino-ri, some 40 kilometers below Kusong in the same province. Both of the projectiles traveled east at the altitude of 50 kilometers and landed in the East Sea. They flew 420 kilometers and 270 kilometers re


By The Korea Herald
May 10, 2019