HUNDREDS of mostly elderly Koreans have began three days of reunions with loved ones many have had no contact with since war divided the North and South more than 60 years ago.
About 390 South Koreans travelled to the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort. Dressed in business suits, formal dresses and traditional hanbok, they brought long johns, medicine, parkas, calligraphy works and cash as presents for about 140 family members in the North.
The reunions, as always, were a mixture of high emotion and media frenzy. Journalists crowded around South Korean Lee Soon-kyu, 85, as she met her North Korean husband, Oh Se In, 83.
As cameras flashed, she cocked her head and looked with amazement at Mr Oh, who wore a dapper suit and hat and craned backward to take in his wife.
The images are broadcast throughout South Korea, where the reunions are big news. North Korea’s government, which analysts believe fears that scenes of affluent South Koreans might influence its grip on power, had not published any reports hours after the reunions began.
The deep emotions stem partly from the elderly reuniting after decades spent apart, partly from the knowledge that this will be their only chance. None of the past participants has had a second reunion.
At a table covered with a white cloth, bottled water and soft drinks and a vase of flowers, South Korean Kim Bock-rack wept as he clasped the hands of his sister as a cameraman silently filmed.
The reunions, the first since February of last year, are a poignant yet bitter reminder that the Korean Peninsula is still in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 fighting ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.