Saturday, October 30, 2010

S. Koreans reunited with Northern relatives after 60 years

Hundreds of South Koreans held tearful reunions with their relatives living in the North as the heavily-guarded border was opened for the first time in over a year.

Report title: South Koreans reunited with Northern relatives after sixty years
Published: 12:21PM BST 30 Oct 2010

Photo: South Korean Kim Rye-jung, 96, left, hugs her North Korean daughter Woo Jung Hye during the Separated Family Reunion Meeting at Diamond Mountain in North Korea Photo: AP
Some 430 South Koreans crossed into the North on Saturday in a convoy of buses.

The reunions, which give divided families their first chance to see one another in six decades, took place at the Mount Kumgang resort on the North's southeastern coast, near the border.

"How are you, I could only see you in dreams," said Kim Rae-Jung, 96, from the South, choked in tears as she touched the face of her 71-year-old daughter, Wu Jong-Hye, from the North.

"I've been living well here, mother," said the daughter with tears rolling down her face.

She showed her mother pictures of her relatives and some 20 medals of honour that she and members of her family had received from the North Korean government.

The daughter was left behind in the North when other family members fled to the South in 1951 to avoid advancing Chinese troops during the Korean War.

The South Koreans from 97 families will spend three days with relatives in North Korea, from whom they were separated by the war.

Lee Moon-Yeong, in his 70s, said he had spent a sleepless night in anticipation of seeing one of his brothers after so many years apart with no chance of any communication.

He had previously feared the brother might have been killed in action after joining the North Korean army during the 1950-53 Korean War.

"Brothers were fighting against brothers. What a tragedy it was," he said.

Lee's second brother died in 1952 while fighting for the South.

North and South Korean troops on Friday briefly exchanged fire across the frontier, heightening tensions before next month's G20 summit of world leaders in Seoul. No casualties were reported.

Following the Saturday to Monday meetings, another batch of 96 South Koreans will be reunited with North Korean relatives next week.

The emotional meetings, the first since September last year, come despite icy inter-Korean ties in the aftermath of the North's alleged torpedoing of a South Korean warship, for which the North angrily denies responsibility.

Under President Lee Myung Bak, Seoul has rolled back the previous government's policy of reconciliation and taken a tougher stance towards the communist state, linking badly needed food and fertiliser aid to progress in talks on dismantling the North's nuclear programme.

On Friday, the North fired toward a South Korean guard post and South Korean soldiers there immediately returned three shots from a machine gun.

It marked the first time that shots have been fired from the North across the border since Lee's conservative government replaced a liberal government in February 2008.

Local newspaper reports said that a North Korean machine gun, always trained toward the South, might have accidentally fired.
Such accidental firings occurred occasionally, it said.

"Things are quiet there today," the Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman said.

The shooting, in the Hwacheon area 56 miles northeast of Seoul, comes as the South prepares to host the Group of 20 summit on November 11-12.



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