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1st of 2 Inter-Korean Family Reunions Ends

Posted September. 29, 2009 08:27,   


The last day of the first of two three-day reunions for separated inter-Korean families yesterday saw both painful farewells and joyful anticipation.

The first group of 97 South Koreans and 29 accompanying relatives bid farewell to their North Korean kin, and returned home via overland route from Mount Kumgang in the North.

Another 432 South Koreans preparing for their reunions gathered at Sokcho, Gangwon Province, the same day. They could barely contain their excitement ahead of the second three-day reunion starting today.

The first group briefly reunited after decades of separation and said tearful goodbyes as the first reunion ended at the mountain resort in the morning.

Roh Sun-ho, 50, could not let go of her brother Roh Seong-ho, 48, who has lived in the North since the North’s hijacking of the South Korean ship Dongjin 27 22 years ago. She broke into tears, saying, “It is heartbreaking to know that I cannot live with my brother. It’ll be unlikely for me to get another opportunity to see him again.”

Tears also welled up in Roh Seong-ho, who said “Extreme sadness has taken tears away from me.”

When the driver of the bus carrying South Koreans started the engine after the reunion, the North Korean participants clung to the bus and wept.

Among those to take part in the second reunion is Park Gwang-ja of South Korea, 68, who arrived at Hanwha Resort in the afternoon. She will meet her older brother Pak Jin-ki, 75, from North Korea.

“I applied to attend a family reunion once but when I heard nothing from authorities, I thought my brother had died. My dream of seeing him alive again has come true,” Park Gwang-ja said.

“My brother used to be good at playing table tennis. I remember him scolding my younger sister and me for playing around with his racket.”

The second group of South Korean reunion participants received an orientation for their visit to the North in the afternoon, and is expected to arrive at Mount Kumgang at 1 p.m. today.