Koreas end first family reunion in over three years

Seoul, Feb 25: South and North Koreas Tuesday ended the reunion of families separated by the Korean War, held for the first time in more than three years in North Korea’s Mount Kumgang resort.

Hundreds of South Koreans returned Tuesday afternoon by bus to a resort hotel in South Korea’s east coastal city of Sokcho, from where they had left for the mountain resort in North Korea’s southeast coast, Xinhua reported citing Seoul’s unification ministry.

A group of 357 elderly South Koreans met their long-lost relatives from North Korea at Mount Kumgang for three days through Tuesday, after the first group of 82 South Korean applicants ended their three-day reunion event last Saturday.

Hundreds of Koreans met their family members separated by the 1950-53 war for 11 hours during their three-day stay in the mountain resort. There were tearful scenes when the separated families held the last day’s one-hour gathering before parting with each other once again.

According to government data, more than 70,000 South Koreans have been on the waiting list for the family reunion since 1988, with all the applicants expected to pass away within 20 years from now due to their old age.

The family reunion is an urgent, humanitarian issue on the Korean Peninsula as millions of Koreans have been separated since the Korean War ended in armistice in 1953, which banned exchange of letters and phone calls.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said in a televised press conference marking the first anniversary of her inauguration that she would launch a preparatory committee for the reunification with North Korea under the direct control of her, vowing to expand civilian exchanges with the northern neighbour.