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Separated families meet in six decades

Posted February. 21, 2014 02:42,   


“If I die, I will die in Mount Kumgang.”

Kim Seom-gyeong, a 91-year-old man on a gurney, was taking an IV injection due to cold symptoms, but he was very stern. Despite the advice from doctors and the staff of the Korea Red Cross, he was persistent about going to meet his daughters, Jin Chon and Chun Sun, in North Korea. He crossed the military demarcation line by ambulance on Thursday and finally met his children having left behind in the North in a reunion event. He burst into tears as soon as he met them.

Hong Shin-ja, an 84-year-old woman in a wheelchair after having a surgery to treat a spine fracture, came to a resort in Sokcho where separated families were staying ahead of the reunions in a wheelchair. She arrived at Mount Kumgang by ambulance and met her sister Yong Ok and nephew Han Gwang Ryong.

The reunions of separated families took place in four years after going through so many difficulties. Aside from Kim and Hong who used an ambulance to meet their family members, many of the participants in the reunions were old and in wheelchairs. The desperation that they may not be able to meet their families again if they miss this chance encouraged them to be there despite their advanced age. Among the 82 participants from the South, 25 were over 90 years old and 42 were over 80. As a result, the number of family members who accompanied these participants amounted to 58, almost tripled from about 20 in the previous reunions.

After six decades of separation, the families finally met in Kumgansan Hotel at 3:10 p.m., after which they had dinner together catching up on each other’s lives in tears. The elderly participants were already heartbroken by the fact that they should say good-bye to each other soon after the short reunions.

Park Yang-su, a sailor of Odaeyang 61 that was kidnapped by the North in December 1972, met his brother Yang-gon in over 40 years. And Choi Yeong-cheol, a sailor of Suwon 33 that was also kidnapped in February 1974, also met his brother Seon-deuk. Three people who are recognized by the South Korean government as kidnapped family members including Choi Nam-sun met their step-siblings in the North.

The first round of the reunions where South Korean applicants meet their relatives in the North (127 people) is set to end this Saturday. For the second round scheduled for Feb. 23 through 25, 88 applicants from the North will come to the South to meet their relatives in the South (361 people).