Accessibility links

Koreas Wrap up Emotional Family Reunions

  • VOA News

A North Korean man escorts his relatives as they reunite with their South Korean family members during the Separated Family Reunion Meeting at Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Feb. 21, 2014.
North and South Korean relatives who were reunited this week for the first time in decades are saying goodbye Tuesday, as several days of emotional family reunions wrap up.

Many of the families taking part in the reunions at the North's scenic Mount Kumgang resort likely will never see their long-lost family members again, since many are in their 70s and 80s.

A total of 357 South Koreans were reunited with 88 elderly relatives from the North. Last week, a group of 82 South Koreans and 180 North Koreans were reaqainted.

Before now, the reunions had not been held since 2010. There are none scheduled in the future, leaving tens of thousands to wonder if they will see their families before they die.

The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war following their 1950s conflict. Neither government allows their citizens to visit or correspond with those on the other side of the border.

The family reunions were held despite Pyongyang's concern over large-scale, annual, joint military drills, which Washington and Seoul began Monday.

The North sees the military exercises, known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, as an unacceptable provocation. But it eventually backed down on its threat to use them as a pretext to cancel the reunions.

Key Resolve lasts just over a week and is largely computer-simulated, while the eight-week Foal Eagle drill involves air, ground and naval field training.

Both sides are on heightened alert during such drills. Following a South Korean military exercise in 2010, North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing four people.

On Tuesday, Seoul said a North Korean patrol boat briefly violated the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime boundary that separates the two countries' territories in the Yellow Sea.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said the boat crossed the line three times, but retreated following an "immediate and firm verbal warning." It added it is "keeping a close eye on possible provocation by the intentional violation of the sea border."