Privacy for Koreans to bridge 60yr divide

2014-02-21 12:25
North and South Korean family members divided by the Korean War walk up stairs together during a reunion for families at a venue in the North Korean resort area of Mount Kumgang. (Yonhap, AFP)

North and South Korean family members divided by the Korean War walk up stairs together during a reunion for families at a venue in the North Korean resort area of Mount Kumgang. (Yonhap, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Seoul - Around 80 elderly South Koreans met privately on Friday with North Korean relatives they haven't seen for 60 years, on the second day of a highly-charged reunion for families divided by the Korean War.

In contrast to the previous day when their tearful and, in some cases, clearly traumatic meetings were played out in front of TV cameras, they were allowed three hours in their own rooms to try and bridge the decades of separation.

The event, held at a mountain resort in North Korea, was only secured after intense North-South negotiations, and has been seen by many as a possible first step towards improved inter-Korean co-operation.

It is the first such reunion for more than three years, and followed a rare concession from North Korea, which had originally threatened to cancel if the South and the United States pushed ahead with annual joint military drills that begin on Monday.

North Korea's main ally China, which has come under increased US pressure to push Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear weapons programme, welcomed the reunion as a moment of "great significance".

"We believe this is an important and correct step forward taken ... with national interests and regional peace and stability in mind," foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in Beijing.

‘So old’

In an apparent goodwill gesture, Seoul approved on Friday the shipment by two private aid groups for close to $1m worth of tuberculosis medicine and powdered milk to North Korea.

The 82 South Korean participants, with an average age of 84 and some so frail they had to be moved by ambulance, arrived at the resort midday Thursday after crossing the heavily-militarised border in a convoy of 10 buses.

After a brief lunch, they were led into a banqueting hall where they first came face-to-face with the 180 North Korean relatives they had applied to see.

Some simply embraced and sobbed, while others stared and stroked each other's faces, seemingly unable to believe that they were in the same room.

Photos were exchanged and lovingly pored over, not just old black-and-white ones of the family when it was together, but also brand new colour pictures of husbands, wives, children and grandchildren that neither side knew even existed.

One of the oldest South Koreans, a 93-year-old man who was separated from his pregnant wife during the 1950-53 conflict, met the now 64-year-old son he had never seen.

"So old," were his first words as they came face-to-face - the resemblance strikingly clear to people watching.

"Let me hug you," the father said and then, sobbing, they both embraced.

The North Korean women wore traditional hanbok dresses, while the men were mostly dressed in dark suits. All seemed to be sporting badges of former leaders Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il - obligatory accessories in North Korea.

Clock running out

Tens of millions of people were displaced by the sweep of the 1950-53 Korean War, which saw the frontline yo-yo from the south of the Korean peninsula to the northern border with China and back again.

The chaos and devastation separated brothers and sisters, parents and children, husbands and wives.

Because the conflict concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, the two Koreas technically remain at war and direct exchanges of letters or telephone calls are prohibited.

The reunion programme began in earnest after a historic North-South summit in 2000, but the numbers clamouring for a chance to participate have always far outstripped those actually selected.

For many people, time simply ran out. Last year alone, 3 800 South Korean applicants for reunions died.

Of the 82 South Koreans attending the current reunion, 14 needed wheelchairs and two were forced to return home a day early for health reasons.

Friday's private gatherings will be followed by another mass, open reunion in the afternoon.

Then on Saturday, comes the probably the most traumatic moment of all: a farewell ceremony that both sides understand - given their advanced ages - marks the last time they will ever see each other.

Read more on:    south korea  |  north korea  |  north korea nuclear programme
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Hottie of the day: Nicole Meyer!

Nicole is the cover girl for the 2014 edition of SA Swimsuit! Check out some smoking hot pics of here here.

 
 

Men24.com

11 things men don’t know about their clothes
Hilarious mortal kombat elevator prank!
This is how the Top Gear presenters spend their £55 million!
Thirty and still single? There’s hope!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The Moon has moved into your sign, emphasizing the need to connect things to work together. There is a tendency to focus too far...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.