Nearly 400 South Koreans are preparing to cross the border into North Korea for a reunion with relatives they have been separated from since the Korean War.
They arrived Monday in the northeastern city Sokcho, where they will rest before traveling Tuesday to the North Korean mountain resort of Mount Kumgang to restore family ties that were cut during the 1950-53 war that ended in an uneasy truce between the communist North and democratic South.
Residents on either side of the border have long been forbidden to exchange phone calls or letters directly with each other. The event marks the 20th inter-Korean reunion arranged by both governments since 2000.
The reunions include 90 South Korean and 96 North Korean elderly who have been cut off from their family members for more than 60 years.
Jeon Hyung-kak, an 80-year-old South Korean who will meet his younger sister in North Korea, told VOA he has tossed and turned each night in anticipation.
“I have never seen her since we were separated during the war," Jeon said. "I became so excited by the news that I could not sleep. I simply cannot express my feeling.”
Jeon said he would give dried ginseng, cosmetics, and vitamins, as a gift.
The reunions were suspended in 2010 after North Korea fired artillery shells at a South Korean border island, and Pyongyang cancelled reunions planned in 2013 at the last minute after claiming Seoul was trying to overthrow North Korea's government.
More than 65,000 South Koreans are on a long waiting list to see their long-lost relatives, many of them in their 80s and 90s. There was concern that this reunion would be canceled after Pyongyang indicated it would launch a long-range rocket during its recent ruling party anniversary celebration.
Some information is from Reuters and AP.