South Koreans enter North to reunite with kin split by war

North Korea to host emotional family reunions

"I've prepared for him some household medicine including digester and headache pills, nutritional supplements as well as some daily necessaries", 76-year old Lee Soo-nam, who was due to meet his older brother, told Reuters.

South Korean President Moon, himself a member of a separated family from the North's eastern port city of Hungnam, said on Monday that the reunions should be sharply scaled up and held on a regular basis and include exchanges of visits and letters. "Do you have a son?"

Hugging the woman he'd last seen as a child, Mr Ri showed his mother a photo of her late husband, who had stayed behind in the North with him as a boy.

The reunions are resuming after a three-year hiatus as the North accelerated its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and relations worsened.

In South Korea, more than half of the 132,600 people who applied for reunions - including some of those who got to see their relatives - have died.

"I didn't even know if he was alive or not".

They became separated in the chaos of fleeing the war 68 years ago and ended up on opposite sides of the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea, reports the BBC.

Many were war refugees who fled south during the war, leaving relatives behind.

The oldest attendee is a 101-year-old man from the South, who is meeting his North Korean daughter-in-law and granddaughter, Yonhap reported.

Almost 20,000 people have participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face reunions since 2000.

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Numerous family members brought gifts for their North Korean relatives.

Clasping one another, they tried to bridge the decades of separation through precious physical contact and by showing each other pictures of their relatives.

"I never imagined this day would come", Lee said. Some experts say warming inter-Korean relations could suffer a setback if the North refuses to accept a US -led call for complete nuclear disarmament, and that is expected to figure into another inter-Korean summit set for next month in Pyongyang.

The reunions, the first in three years, will take place in the North's tourist resort on Mount Kumgang, as agreed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in during their first summit in April.

Kim had seven siblings in the North when he headed down to South Korea in 1950. The Unification Ministry estimates there are now about 600,000 to 700,000 South Koreans with immediate or extended relatives in North Korea.

"I've lived this long to meet you", replied the 85-year-old, wiping away tears as she clasped a photograph of her brother in his youth.

Experts say the North worries that too many reunions would enlighten its citizens about the economically affluent South, and eventually weaken Pyongyang's grip on power.

Moon attended a 2004 reunion to meet his aunt.

Analysts say North Korea sees the reunions as an important bargaining chip and doesn't want them expanded because they give its people better awareness of the outside world.

South Korea selects reunion applicants to participate using a computerized lottery.

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