Second round of reunions of separated families in 2018 Day 1:
Relieving decades – of deep sorrow
The separated family members left Sokcho, crossed the military
demarcation line, and headed up to Mt. Geumgang through the rain in
the morning. A typhoon was approaching Gangwon Province, and the winds
and rain were becoming worse. The extremely inclement weather somewhat
prolonged the immigration procedures, but not even the typhoon could
stop the separated family members from venturing forth to see their
long-lost relatives in the North. They arrived at the North Korean
mountain at around 1 p.m. After having lunch at Onjeonggak, they
hurriedly gathered in a banquet hall for the first meeting with their
Oh Byung-im (89) came here to meet her younger brother and seemed
more excited today than she had been yesterday, her face slightly
flushed. She said “I am so nervous.” Her eldest son Park Hyeon-seok
(66) brought a family photo album for his uncle whom he would meet for
the first time, and he radiated with excitement.
At 3:15 p.m., the northern family members began entering the banquet
hall one by one. Some family members waiting at the tables at the back
stood up and looked through the door in their extreme eagerness to see
loved ones. Upon meeting each other in front of the tables, the
separated family members from the South and the North embraced each
other and dissolved into sobbing.
Upon meeting their elder sister Kim Jung Ok (85) after around 70
years, Kim Jung-ja (83) and Jung-sook (81) hugged her. The three
sisters took a journey backwards through time by piecing together
scattered old memories.
Kang Jung-ok (100), the oldest participant in this round of
reunions, burst into tears as soon as she saw her younger sister, Kang
Jung Hwa (85), a moment she had waited for so many decades. She didn’t
let go of her younger sister’s hand and said in a lively voice, “You
are so beautiful. You were beautiful because you are the third
daughter of our family.”
Kwon Hyuk-chan (84) and Hyuk-bin (81) had expressed deep longings
for their older brother Kwon Hyuk Man (86) separated 68 years ago, and
they immediately recognized him at a distance as he walked in. Hyuk
Man expressed sadness of only being able to see each other for three
days, and Hyuk-chan comforted his older brother, saying “It is okay.
We can meet again.”
Jang Gu-bong (82) said to his older brother Jang Un Bong (84) from
the North “If you live to 100, South and North Korea will be unified.
So, you have to live to 100. We can meet again then.” He tried to
contain the sorrow he felt right after the delight of meeting.
Cho Deok Yong (88) from the North, the only immediate family member
in the second round of reunions, met his son Cho Jeong-gi (67) and his
younger brother Cho Sang-yong (80) from the South. He saw his loved
ones by turns, saying that “I can’t believe this.” He talked softly,
then suddenly embraced them and burst into tears.
When the announcement came that the first group meeting was coming
to an end, everyone felt that the two hours had passed as if only 20
minutes. The separated family members felt sorry for the brevity of
the meeting but promised to have dinner together soon. They went to
the Mount Kumgang Hotel and the Oekumgang Hotel to unpack, respectively.
The welcome dinner hosted by the South followed at around 7 p.m.
Even on the first day of the reunions, the separated family members
hugged each other with the greatest happiness and shared their
irrepressible delight at meeting after 70 years of separation.