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South Koreans Hold Emotional Family Reunions in the North

A group of elderly South Koreans met their North Korean family members for the first time since they were separated six decades ago by the Korean War.

The emotional meeting Thursday between the 82 South Koreans and 180 North Koreans was held at the North's scenic Mount Kumgang resort on the east coast.

Such family reunions have not been held since 2010, and they nearly fell victim this time to increased tensions between the two neighbors, which are still technically at war.

Pyongyang for weeks threatened to cancel the reunions, as it has in the past, if Seoul went ahead with its annual joint military drills with Washington on Monday.

But the North eventually relented, in an agreement last week following a high-level meeting that many hope can serve as a first step towards improved ties.

South Korea has been pushing the North to allow for regular meetings between divided families, many of whom are in their 80s and had all but given up hope of seeing their loved ones.

On Thursday, the relatives will meet at one of Mount Kumgang's main halls before eating dinner together and then taking part in private reunions, where they will exchange gifts and share family photos.

A second round of reunions involving 88 North Koreans and 361 of their South Korean relatives will take place later this week and last until Tuesday.

Many of the South Korean families expressed joy at the long-awaited reunions, but said they realize it is likely the last time they will ever see or even talk to their relatives, as even inter-Korean phone calls and letters are prohibited by both governments.

Millions of Koreans were separated in the 1950s conflict. Most have died without ever seeing their relatives again.

Since 2000, about 130,000 South Koreans have put their names on a reunion waiting list. Just over half are still alive.

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