Elderly North and South Koreans meet for the first time after seven decades, it’s already time to bid farewell

Millions of people were swept apart by the 1950-53 Korean War, which left the peninsula split by the impenetrable Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and separated brothers and sisters, parents and children and husbands and wives.
North Koreans wave to their South Korean relatives on a bus to bid farewell after the separated family reunion meeting at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea on Wednesday.(AP Photo)
North Koreans wave to their South Korean relatives on a bus to bid farewell after the separated family reunion meeting at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea on Wednesday.(AP Photo)
Updated on Aug 22, 2018 12:58 PM IST
Copy Link
Seoul | ByAgence France-Presse

Elderly North and South Korean family members allowed to meet for the first time in nearly seven decades prepared to bid each other farewell on Wednesday, in all probability for the last time in their lives.

Millions of people were swept apart by the 1950-53 Korean War, which left the peninsula split by the impenetrable Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and separated brothers and sisters, parents and children and husbands and wives.

Over the years most have died, and fewer than 60,000 South Koreans remain alive who have registered to meet their Northern kin at the occasional reunions -- this week’s are the first for three years.

Those survivors lucky enough to be chosen to take part -- 89 families this time, with a similar number to follow later this week -- have to cram a lifetime’s relationship into just three days.

When they come to an end, the realities of age and the nuclear-armed North’s isolation mean they are unlikely ever to see each other again.

At a morning reunion before the final farewells, South Korean Kim Byung-Oh, 88, started to sob as soon as his younger sister joined him at the table.

“Brother, don’t cry. Do not cry,” she said, squeezing his hands hard, but his tears kept flowing, before his sister -- who had bitten her lips to try to stay calm -- also broke down.

They squeezed each other’s hands, without saying a word, for nearly 10 minutes.

“I didn’t know my father would cry this much,” said Byung-oh’s son.

Hostilities ceased with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically still at war and with all direct civilian exchanges -- even mundane family news -- banned.

Many drew family trees on pieces of paper and exchanged relatives’ names and photos, according to South Korean pool reports.

As South Korean Lee Soo-Nam, 77, sat with his eldest brother he abruptly asked his Northern nephew to write down all his siblings’ and children’s names.

“I asked for their names to remember them while I’m alive,” Lee said.

“Words fail to describe how I am feeling right now,” he went on. “When can we meet again? No one knows. It’s so sad. I wish we were younger.” But he was “tremendously happy” they had been able to meet.

“Now I can go to the graves of my parents and tell them, ‘Father, mother, I met brother Jong Song and saw him alive. I thank you. It is all thanks to your prayers’.” Others were grateful they had been able to see their relatives, however briefly.

South Korean Lee Byung-joo, 90, met a nephew and niece, the children of his late elder brother.

“Now, having met them, my lifelong sorrow is gone,” he said. “All the questions I had have been answered. Now I can put down the burden in my heart. We have found our roots.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Japan’s decision comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida agreed to enhance bilateral security and defence cooperation, including in defence manufacturing, during a meeting on the margins of the Quad Leaders Summit in Tokyo. (ANI PHOTO.)

    Japan to allow lethal defence equipment exports to India, 11 countries: Report

    New Delhi: Japan plans to allow the exports of lethal military equipment, including missiles and jets, to India and 11 other countries, a move that could bolster efforts by New Delhi and Tokyo to cooperate in defence manufacturing. Regulations will be eased by March next year to allow the exports to India, Australia and some European and Southeast Asian nations, according to a report by Nikkei. It still bans exports of lethal weapons.

  • An employee works on a vaccine based on the monkeypox vaccine that has already been developed by the vaccine company Bavarian Nordic at a laboratory of the company in Martinsried near Munich, Germany.

    Nearly 200 cases of monkeypox in more than 20 countries: WHO

    The World Health Organisation says nearly 200 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 20 countries not usually known to have outbreaks of the unusual disease, but described the epidemic as “containable” and proposed creating a stockpile to equitably share the limited vaccines and drugs available worldwide.

  • Two women take a selfie at an art exhibit honouring her late colleague Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin city in the occupied West Bank.

    Will go to ICC over journalist's killing in West Bank: Al Jazeera

    The Al Jazeera news network says it will submit a case file to the International Criminal Court on the killing of reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead earlier this month during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank. The Qatar-based network and the Palestinian Authority have accused Israeli soldiers of deliberately killing her. Israel rejects those allegations as a “blatant lie."

  • Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi (front) disembarking from his plane at Apia International Airport as he arrives for an official visit to Samoa. (AFP)

    China criticises US as tensions rise in South Pacific

    China on Friday accused US Secretary of State Antony Blinken of “smearing” the country and exaggerating the “China threat” after the top American diplomat said Beijing was undermining global order, adding that US sees it as a “long-term challenge”. During a globally-tracked 45-minute China policy speech at George Washington University on Thursday, Blinken said the US was determined to avoid conflict or “a new Cold War” but wanted Beijing to adhere to international rules.

  • UVALDE, TX - MAY 24: Uvalde Police gather outside the home of suspected gunman 18-year-old Salvador Ramos on May 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. (AFP)

    ‘I had an uneasy feeling sometimes’: Texas shooter's mother in first reaction

    Speaking for the first time on the horrific Texas elementary school shootout, in which 19 children and two teachers were killed, Adriana Reyes, the mother of the accused, Salvador Ramos, said she had an 'uneasy feeling' sometimes. Reyes also said her son, when angry, used to be aggressive, but was 'not a monster.' “Those kids…I have no words. I don't know what to say about those poor kids,” she further said.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Friday, May 27, 2022