Second round of inter-Korean family reunions begins

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Seoul, Aug 24 (IANS) More than 300 South Koreans travelled on Friday to North Korea to take part in the second round of reunions of families separated by the Korean War.

The meetings, organized by Seoul and Pyongyang, will continue till Sunday. These have come at a time of rapprochement between the two sides.

A total of 326 South Koreans from 81 families arrived at a hotel near Mount Kumgang, on the southeastern coast of North Korea, where nearly 100 of their long-separated family members awaited them, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.

As with the first round of reunions that ended on Wednesday, this one was filled with tears, sigh and screams of joy in yet another emotional reminder of the tragic division of the peninsula, Yonhap news agency reported.

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The second round is scheduled to be held across six sessions over three days, totalling 12 hours of meetings.

South Korea’s Cho Jeong-gi, 67, met his 88-year-old father for the first time, as the latter had moved to the North before Cho’s birth.

“On the one hand, I am happy, but on the other, I feel sad,” Cho said. His mother lived in the South and passed away earlier this year, before she could be notified about the reunion.

The number of South Koreans registered to apply for the family reunions totalled 132,124 in May (86 per cent of whom were 70 years old or older), although it was believed that only about 57,000 of them were still alive, according to South Korean government data.

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A total of 89 South Koreans and 185 North Koreans took part in the first round of the family reunions held at the same hotel between Monday and Wednesday.

The decision to hold the reunions — the first of its kind since October 2015 — was agreed upon between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their April 27 summit.

In the last 18 years, the two countries have organized 20 face-to-face reunions of war-separated families, attended by around 20,000 Koreans.

–IANS

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