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Second round of reunions of separated families in 2018 Day 1: Relieving decades – of deep sorrow


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 northern relatives.

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.

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