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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid