South Koreans crossed the border with North Korea on Tuesday (20 October) to meet family members they had not seen since the 1950-53 Korean War. After the negotiated end to a recent armed confrontation across the border, the two Koreas agreed to restart the reunions.
The reunion of 90 South Koreans and 96 North Koreans, the 20th of its kind, will be held at a resort in the North, mostly in a large ballroom under the watchful eye of officials. Oh Cheol-hwan, a 77-year-old South Korean will be reunited with her older brother.
"I feel really thrilled and happy. I just couldn't sleep until 2am. I am 77-years-old and my brother is 83. I want to see him, I want to see him right away," Oh said before leaving for North Korea.
One South Korean was unsure what he would say after 65 years of separation from his older brother. "I can't think of what to say. We are being reunited after 65 years when I was 11. I want to ask if he can recognize me," a 76-year-old Kim Ki-joo said.
A guide book distributed to the elderly South Koreans chosen by lottery to meet family members includes a long list of dos and don'ts – mostly don'ts. The booklet provided by the Red Cross, which organises the reunions, advises South Korean participants not to press for answers on topics such as the North's political leadership or living standards.
After staying overnight at a resort near the border and undergoing medical check-ups, the South Koreans boarded buses which drove through the heavily-fortified land border. The reunions are politically important for the South, where 66,000 people are on a waiting list to see long-lost relatives, a number that is shrinking fast, while the North also seeks to maximise their domestic propaganda value.