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

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs