A man selected as a participant for a reunion shows pictures of his deceased mother and little brothers living in North Korea, at a hotel used as a waiting place in Sokcho, South Korea, August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A group of South Koreans gathered in the northeast coastal city of Sokcho Sunday before heading to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for a reunion with their war-separated families.
The family reunion, which is held during the celebration of the National Liberation Day of Korea, was announced in the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace after leaders from the two sides met in April.
Before meeting their family members on the other side, the South Koreans registered for the reunions at a hotel in Sokcho, got their health checked and were briefed on the procedures and protocols for the event.
The two sides will hold two rounds of reunion meetings. The South Koreans will leave for the venue Monday morning to stay there for three days.
The second round of reunion, involving 83 DPRK families who applied for gatherings with SouthKorean relatives, will be held from Friday to Sunday at the same venue, according to SouthKorean media.
Many separated families have not heard of their missing relatives in nearly 70 years since the Korean War was halted by armistice in 1953. Some waited a lifetime for news of their family which never came. For those who are still alive, everyone has a story of bitterness hanging on to their missing loved ones for decades.
Seventy-seven-year-old Kim Hyeja was finally about to meet her brother after 73 years. Kim’s mother took her two-year-old brother out one day in 1945 and she has not heard from them since.
Kim said she wanted to learn how her mother lived through years of separation with family until her death when she meets her brother.
“I think about my mother all these years, about how sad she’d be, thinking about her daughter. I’m very heart-broken every time this comes to mind,” said Kim.
Ninety-one-year-old Lee Geumsum will meet her son, who got separated from her in 1950.
“I’m sure I won’t recognize him. He was three, but now he’s 71. And he won’t recognize me either. I want to ask him how he lived through all these years, whether he was raised by a new mother, or did his father raise him on his own,” said Lee.
Still those who are about to reunite with their family members are the lucky few, as the vast majority of separated relatives are still waiting to see their loved ones in their lifetime.
“As for those separated families who have not get the chance to reunite, I hope their problem will get solved. Whether it’s the leadership in the north, or in the south, both sides should work towards letting these separated families to reunite at any time with great foresight, to fulfill the wishes of these seniors over 90 years old,” said Lee Youngbu, a senior South Korean heading north to meet his relatives. — Reuters