News / Asia

Separated Korean Relatives Meet for Emotional Reunions

Lee Son-hyang, 88, (L) of South Korea and Lee Yoon Geun, 72 (R) of North Korea embrace during a reunion event for families divided by the two countries, at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea on February 20, 2014. (AFP Photo/Yonhap)
Lee Son-hyang, 88, (L) of South Korea and Lee Yoon Geun, 72 (R) of North Korea embrace during a reunion event for families divided by the two countries, at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea on February 20, 2014. (AFP Photo/Yonhap)
Daniel Schearf
More than 100 South Koreans have crossed into North Korea to meet with relatives they have not seen since the 1950s Korean War. Pyongyang has not allowed the emotional reunions since 2010 and analysts have said the isolated nation uses them for political purposes.
 
One hundred forty South Koreans, most in their 70s and 80s, arrived Thursday at North Korea's Mount Kumgang resort.
 
They are part of several hundred chosen by lottery to spend two days meeting with North Korean relatives they have not seen in six decades.
 
South Korea's Yonhap Television showed the elderly Koreans arriving at a banquet hall, then hugging and sobbing, overcome with emotion.
 
Lee Myung-han was part of the group crossing the border Thursday. He said he is going to meet his brother, though he does not know if he will be there because he heard he is sick. When a journalist asked if he slept well last night, he said his leg and feet hurt in some parts, so he could not sleep at all.
 
A number of Koreans at the reunion were in wheel chairs and a few in stretchers. The scene underscored a reality that many relatives in other divided families will not see each other before they die.
 
More than half of the South Koreans registered for the Red Cross-run reunions through lottery have died waiting; 3,800 died in 2013 alone.
 
Lilian Lee with the Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights said for the reuniting families, this is their only chance.
 
“If this chance isn't taken then they will never see them again. On the other hand, these family reunions are very often used as political tools by both the North and South Korean governments and that perspective is not very fruitful to the North Korean human rights situation in general,” said Lee.
 
The two Koreas have held 18 rounds of reunions since 1985, reuniting over 20,000 relatives in person and by video link. However, North Korea has refused to make them regular and has postponed the events at least four times, most recently in September.
 
Many feared Pyongyang would postpone the reunions again after demanding an end to joint U.S.-South Korea military drills that start Monday, but Seoul said it convinced Pyongyang to separate the two issues and proceed with the meetings.
 
Daniel Pinkson, Deputy Northeast Asia Director with the International Crisis Group, said an unprecedented United Nations report this week condemning North Korea's human rights situation may have helped.
 
“I think by drawing more attention to it through some more vocal, vigorous response or through some kinetic response or through some retribution such as canceling the family reunions would draw more attention to it. And, I think the report is pretty solid. So, it would simply inflame the problem for them. So, in a strategic sense, the leadership probably decided just to ignore it and wait for this to go away,” said Pinkson.
 
A second round of reunions Sunday will see a group of 360 South Koreans meet relatives across the border.
 
The three-year Korean War that separated the peninsula into a communist north and capitalist south divided millions of families.
 
The two never signed a peace treaty and technically remain at war, with severe restrictions on cross-border trips and communications.
 
VOA Seoul Bureau Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid