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

Brexit deal refusal to have limited impact on Korean economy

Seoul vows to speed up efforts for Korea-Britain bilateral trade deal, bracing for post-Brexit era. The British parliament’s latest rejection of the government’s proposed Brexit deal is likely to have a limited impact on global financial markets as well as the South Korean economy, Seoul’s government said Wednesday. Vowing pre-emptive steps to counter a possible fallout, Korean authorities will work on preparations for a bilateral free trade deal with Britain, as the latter will no longer be subject to the Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement upon Brexit. “The vote to reject the Brexit deal was seen to have a limited impact on global financial ma


By The Korea Herald
January 17, 2019

Diplomacy

Beijing rebukes French, German ambassadors

Beijing says award for Chinese lawyer is politically motivated. Beijing on Wednesday slammed the French and German ambassadors to China after they granted a human rights award to a detained Chinese lawyer, saying their wrongdoing gravely violated China’s internal affairs. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that China has lodged stern representations and expressed strong dissatisfaction, as well as firm opposition, to the ambassadors’ action. The relevant case is purely judicial, which has nothing to do with human rights, the ministry said. The wrongdoings of Germany and France gravely interfered with China’s internal affairs and judicial sovereignty, the ministry said. China urges the ambassadors of relevant countries to do more to develop bilateral relations and enhance political mutual trust, not the opposite, it added. The lawyer, Yu Wensheng, was detained


By China Daily
January 17, 2019

Diplomacy

Singapore-Malaysia relations still ‘good’, says Malaysian Foreign Minister

Ties between Malaysia and Singapore are still “good” despite ongoing air and maritime disputes between the two countries. “Our relations with Singapore remain good. There are some issues but we are talking to each other, and that is very important,” said Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on Wednesday (Jan 16), “Most importantly, the discussions are going on. I am confident the discussions are moving in the right direction.” He said five senior government officials will meet with their Singaporean counterparts to discuss ongoing issues. Besides Mr Saifuddin, the others are Transport Minister Anthony Loke, Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas and Foreign Ministry secretary-general Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob. Both Singapore and Malaysia are currently locked in two separate disputes – over 


By The Straits Times
January 17, 2019

Diplomacy

China accuses Canada of double standard

Beijing slams Justin Trudeau’s criticism of drug smuggler’s death sentence. China on Tuesday expressed strong dissatisfaction at the Canadian prime minister’s criticism of a drug smuggler’s death sentence, urging the country to respect China’s judicial sovereignty and stop making irresponsible remarks. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing that drug crimes are recognized worldwide as serious crimes and are extremely harmful to the society. She said all countries severely crack down on the issue and so does China. Remarks made by a “relevant Canadian person” lack the spirit of rule by law, she said, urging the Canadian side to correct the mistakes and stop making irresponsible remarks. Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian national convicted of smuggling over 222 kilograms of methamphetamines, was sentenced to death on Monday at


By China Daily
January 16, 2019

Diplomacy

South Korean defense paper doesn’t label north an enemy

Ministry also says the north has specialized battalion for assassination of key figures. The Defense Ministry does not directly refer to North Korea as an enemy and takes a less hostile tone toward the communist state in its 23rd white paper published Tuesday. The ministry’s latest biennial white paper — the first to be published since the Moon Jae-in administration came to power in 2017 — addresses security threats, military policies and the regional security environment. Perhaps most notably, the Defense Ministry eliminated the phrase specifically describing North Korea as South Korea’s “enemy,” a move that appears to reflect


By The Korea Herald
January 16, 2019

Diplomacy

Rohingya issue will not be solved easily

Bangladeshi foreign minister says the road to a solution will be long and paved with difficulty. The much-talked-about Rohingya issue will not be solved easily, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said on Monday. “I have directed to conduct a study on the Rohingyas which will try to find out the impacts of Rohingyas on our country’s social, economic and security system,” said the minister while talking to the journalists at his office in Dhaka. Urging the international community to step forward for a logical solution to the crisis, he said, “The international community has also responsibilities to solve the crisis. If Rohingya crisis is continued, interest of everybody including India and China will be hampered.” India and Russia are much positive over the Rohingya issue right now, the minister informed. About the resistance from several countries including China over the issue, he s


By Daily Star
January 15, 2019