In an emotional meeting in mid-October, families members divided by the Korean War united for the first time in over 60 years.
The reunion took place in North Korea, but close to the border at the Mount Kumgang resort. Nearly 400 South Koreans, most in their 80s, rode buses that took them across the border to meet their Northern family members.
The highly emotional meeting allowed siblings and spouses to see each other for the first time in over 60 years. Some had not seen their siblings since they were toddlers and others not seeing their spouses since they were newlyweds.
One woman was 19-years-old and seven months pregnant in 1950 when her husband disappeared in the North due to the war. Many family members assumed their loved ones had died during the civil war and were shocked to hear that they were still alive.
Roughly 400 South Koreans were selected for the first round of meetings, while another 250 attended the second round. Each round consists of just six two-hour sessions, and after that it’s all over. This will almost certainly be the last time many of the family members will see each other. Divided families have no means of communication or knowledge of their distant family’s health.
Unlike East and West Germany during the Cold War, family members in Korea cannot travel to the other country and cannot exchange mail because no postal service exists between the two countries.
Family reunions began in 2000, but only take place sporadically depending on relations between the two countries. Over 130,000 Koreans have registered for meetings with most at least in their 70s. Nearly 64,000 registered Koreans have passed away waiting to meet their family. Only several hundred, who are picked at random, are allowed to participate per meeting. The last meeting was in February 2014.
South Korean visitors were forbidden from discussing numerous topics, such as the North’s leadership and living standards.