GANGWON-DO, South Korea – The past with all its memories, the lingering pain of separation and a hope of reunion filled the air on Sunday at the Hanwha resort on Sokcho in Gangwon-do, where South Koreans separated from relatives after the Korean War were waiting to cross into North Korea to meet family members.
Many of the elderly South Koreans clutched photos of important events to share with their families across the border to try and bridge the forced absence from each other’s lives.
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Lee Chun-ja, 88, held her wedding picture close, something she was looking forward to sharing with her family in the North, while Kim Dong-sun, 92, waited patiently to travel back into his past.
Lee Geum-sum, 91, sat surrounded by younger relatives, flipping through pictures, selecting new ones to show to her relatives, as more elderly South Koreans arrived to the resort in wheelchairs and were taken for health check-ups before traveling to the North.
A first group of 93 South Koreans would be meeting North Korean relatives for three days from Aug. 20-22 in the North’s scenic resort in Mt. Geumgang.
Another 88 North Koreans would be meeting relatives in South Korea from Aug. 24-26, according to the source.
During each of the three-day reunions, the families were expected to have some 11 hours of face-to-face meetings, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.
“On August 1, Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung had visited the North and inspected the ongoing renovations of facilities for family reunions at the scenic resort on Mt. Geumgang,” according to a statement by Seoul’s Unification Ministry.
Ahead of the family reunions in Mt. Geumgang, South and North Korean liaison officers have been working indefatigably to come up with a final list of families for the reunion.
“The South found that, of 200 people requested by the North, 122 persons are alive in the South and seven are dead. The North confirmed that, of 250 people requested by the South, 122 persons are alive in the North and 41 are dead,” a ministry statement said last month.
The last reunion was held in 2015, and restarting such reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War was part of an agreement made between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in during their historic summit in April.
The two Koreas have technically remained at war for over six decades as the Korean War had ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.