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Families separated by war reunite in South Korea

(Reuters) - More than 100 South Koreans, many of them on wheelchairs, crossed the world's most heavily fortified border on Thursday to be reunited with family members living in the North whom they have not seen since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The reunions were held after the North set aside a demand for the suspension of joint military drills by the South and the United States, which it had demanded as a pre-condition.

At the Mount Kumgang resort just north of the border, long-lost relatives embraced with tears, joy and disbelief. Some failed to recognize family they have not seen in more than six decades.

Among the South Koreans was Jang Choon, an 81-year-old in a wheelchair who was dressed in the light brown suit and maroon tie he had bought for the reunion with a brother and a sister living in the North.

"My youngest brother Ha-choon had not even started school when I last saw him," said Jang, the eldest of four siblings, one of whom has died. "But now he's an old man like me."

The six days of family reunions take place under the cloud of a U.N. report on human rights abuses in North Korea, which investigators have said were comparable to Nazi-era atrocities. They have said North Korean security chiefs and possibly even leader Kim Jong Un himself should face international justice.

Pyongyang has rejected the report, describing it as a concoction by the United States and its allies, Japan and the European Union.

But the North appears to be willing to maintain a rapprochement with South Korea that may be crucial as it seeks food for its people.

The possibility of looming food shortages could have been a factor.

"Now it's almost March, when the new farming season must begin, and Kim Jong Un has no means to feed his people," said Kim Seok-hyang, professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Womans University.

"He must get outside help. But looking around, the U.S. won't give him anything, China doesn't seem willing to give anything and then there's the U.N. human rights report pressuring him. The family reunions card is his last resort because he can't neglect his people."


The reunions used to be held roughly annually, but have not taken place since 2010 as tensions between the two Koreas spiraled after the South said the North sank one of its naval vessels. In later months, the North shelled a South Korean island and Pyongyang threatened nuclear attacks last year.

For many of those making the trip to Mt. Kumgang, it will be the last chance to meet separated loved ones.

Of the 128,000 people registered in South Korea as coming from families that were torn apart by the Korean War, 44 percent have already died and more than 80 percent of survivors are over 70, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations.

There have been 18 family reunions since the first in 1985 and a total of 18,143 South and North Korean brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers have met.

The events have never been regular and the two Koreas have squabbled over the details of the events, like deciding on the venue. After the first four, in which families traveled back and forth between Seoul and Pyongyang, North Korea has insisted on hosting the events on its soil.

"The North fears exposing their people to the outside world so they want to shroud their people from looking at the South's successful way of life," said Kim, the professor.

For the families, the politics are secondary.

"I swore to myself, I must not die before I meet my brother and sister," said Jang, the 81-year-old. "I just cannot die with my eyes closed if I don't see them this time."

(Additional reporting by James Pearson; Editing by Jack Kim and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Korean Families Reunite After Six Decades of Separation

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LetTheTruthBeKnown February 21 2014 at 4:00 PM

better find some anti- venon first..~! lol

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angela February 21 2014 at 12:48 PM

it is so sad that this is going on in todays society, it should not happen it is not humane, this country is the coldest cruelest place it is not even good enough for dogs even dogs have a say in this world, why does things like this has to happen? are all those people in power have a mental problem? or a power problem! not sure but it makes my hart break to see those people cry and see them for awhile and they are taken away again, it is like torturing them the one leaving and the one staying! very very sad that this is going on and we cant do any thing about it!! what a disaster!! what a beast the leader is, and he is married and will have a child to be a monaster like him? god save the world!!! we are going back word not forward in the world!!

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Tootie February 21 2014 at 11:35 AM

This is what Communism has wrought since WW11. Gen. Douglas MacArthur was right, in my opinion, to get those Commie b.s t.d.s. immediately after the war. President Truman thought the country had enough war and disagreed with MacArthur. Every one of these countries with political and/or religious wars are stemmed from Communist Russia. Can you imagine the chaos, not to mention the trauma and pain these people went through. Just like the Iron Curtain (Wall), in Berlin, families who were in opposite ends were not allowed to return to their homes. North Korea, Viet Nam, Laos, now the Middle East countries are a complete mess. No one man, nor groups of men can never get this straightened out. I say this; I do not want immigrants coming into America from any part of the world now. Definitely NOT Near East nor Far East! Barack Hussein Obama is the final democratic (small 'd'), to bring us down to third world country levels. In 1965 L. B. Johnson declared War on Poverty! In 1972 Richard Nixon declared War on Cancer! Who Got The Money?? The constant "Needy" people who have babies, don't know who the father is, dead beat dads, and the Whole Rest of the World. Dems believe in 'sharing' all wealth which is Socialism. Reps. believe people who work their butts off, achieving the American Dream should be able to keep most of their earnings. That's the American Way. It's also God's Way. Our water supply is just about gone, no jobs. Where does "Slick" Obama intend immigrants to live? They will all have 'free lunch', so I suggest they live with him, in the White House. Stink and all!

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angela February 21 2014 at 12:53 PM

tootie, in one part i agree with you a 100%, i gone trough a war as a child do not have much love for russia do not want to offend any one this is how i felt at the time, also germans, and asia, i used to hate all of them for what happened in those days, i still do not like russia and never will, but to always bash president obama with eveyr thing he does good or bad iam tired of it! no matter what he does it never seem to please any one! so on that note iam going to stop right here!

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hello February 21 2014 at 11:16 AM

Does anyone know if they get to stay together?

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posthuf February 21 2014 at 10:55 AM




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Fernando&Carlos February 21 2014 at 12:01 PM

I know!!!!

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posthuf February 21 2014 at 10:53 AM

The same thing happened in Vietnam.
Tens of thousands of Vietnamese left their ancestral homes in the North to flee communism and cross into the South before the UN declared South Vietnam a Sovereign Nation in 1954. The ensuing conflict left families separated and broken, and that will never be fixed because the North murdered any family members who couldn't get out in time.
And American college kids, who had no chance of being drafted in the first place, protested and ranted and railed against the war - actually, against the draft. Did you notice once the draft was ended their protests also ended, tho the war went on!

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BILL February 21 2014 at 10:28 AM

As long as the N Korean Army and its Generals is kept contented with food,clothing,housing and pay the regime will stay in power for its always the military that keeps a dictatorship in power.

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ngcolby February 21 2014 at 9:57 AM

a life of waiting. Communism at it's lowest. Skin heads, white supremacy believers here is your hometown waiting for you... you can have a one way ticket.

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nancy1ann February 21 2014 at 9:40 AM

so disgusting, keeping families apart....north korea your despicable....nazi all over again.,..why is this happening! torture, camps, executions.....sad sad, breaks my heart......

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Mike February 21 2014 at 9:32 AM

Very moving.

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