S.Koreans head to Pyongyang for family reunions

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Seoul, Aug 20 (IANS) A group of 89 South Koreans left for Pyongyang on Monday to meet their families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, the first such initiative since October 2015.

The elderly people and more than 300 others left for a Mount Kumgang resort on the North’s east coast in nearly 30 buses in the morning from the coastal city of Sokcho, reports Yonhap News Agency.

Some were in wheelchairs or supported by their accompanying families when they boarded the buses with bags of gifts prepared for their loved ones in the North.

The first session of reunions is scheduled for 3 p.m., followed by a dinner hosted by the North Korean side.

On their second day, they are scheduled to meet again in the morning and have lunch together in their rooms, the first time for separated families to have such a private meeting since the reunion event started.

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They will meet on six occasions lasting about a combined 11 hours during their three-day stay that will end on Wednesday.

The South Korean participants are mostly in their 70s and 80s, with a 101-year-old man the oldest.

The Seoul government has also dispatched around 30 medical staff to the venue to brace for any emergency cases among the participants.

From Friday to Sunday, 83 North Koreans will also be reunited with the families they have found alive in the South at the resort.

The family reunion is the result of an agreement the leaders of South and North Korea reached in April to address humanitarian issues arising from nearly seven decades of division caused by the Korean War, Yonhap reported.

The two Koreas have held 20 rounds of face-to-face family reunions since the first-ever inter-Korean summit in 2000.

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Some 57,000 South Koreans are waiting to be reunited with their families who might be living in the North.

–IANS

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