08/20/2018, 10.19
KOREA
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Korea, family reunifications begin: emotion and disbelief

89 South Koreans departed this morning. Most are over 80 years old. Many can only bring the memory of a beloved deceased to relatives. The first meeting today at 3 pm. In all, they will have 11 hours together. Since the meetings have begun, most of the people who have applied in South Korea have died without having the opportunity to embrace their families.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Re-embracing loved ones after almost 70 years a part. This morning, 89 excited and incredulous South Koreans left the city of Sokcho, to reach the resort on Mount Kumgang (East Coast of North Korea) where 83 relatives, parents, children, spouses, brothers and sisters are waiting for them. They are the families separated by the 1950-53 War, at the end of which family members found themselves on either side of the border, in two countries still formally at war.

The first meeting will be held at 3 pm. In these three days, they will have six opportunities to spend time with their loved ones, for a total of 11 hours.

Chosen with a lottery system, more than half of the participants are over 80 years old. The eldest, Paek Seong-gyu, is 101 (see photo 2). They also include Lee Keum-seom, an elderly 92-year-old lady who will meet her son today for the first time since they were separated. At the time, her son was four years old. Now he is 71. "I never imagined that this day would come - says Lee - I did not even know if he was alive or not".

Among the members, there are also close relatives of deceased persons, who can only bring to memory of the dear departed. Jang Hae-won (see photo 3), 89, fled with his older brother from Hwanghae's hometown. Today, he will meet the children of his deceased brother. "They do not know what their father looked like, so I'll tell them how he looked and when he died," says Jang. "But that’s it, because the more we talk, the greater the sadness will be ".

It is the first reunification among the separated families in three years. Since 2000, 20 meetings have been held, the last one in October 2015. About 57,000 South Koreans are still waiting to see their families in the North. South Korea presses for these meetings to be more frequent: with the advanced age of separated family members, the time available to them is less and less. When the meetings started, the number of South Koreans who applied was 130 thousand. Since then, most of them have died without being able to meet their loved ones again.

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