Dozens of elderly and frail South Koreans set off for North Korea on Monday (April 20) to meet relatives for the first time since they were separated almost seven decades ago by a war that divided the peninsula and their families.
Among the group was Lee Keum-seom, now a tiny and frail 92, who was to see her son for the first time since she and her infant daughter were separated from him and her husband as they fled. They are now 92 and 72 years old, respectively.
"Look", she said. "I used to stare at this photo every single day, wondering when I could meet you". "Oh, I should ask him what his father told him about me".
Lee was split from the rest of her family, including her husband and son, in the middle of the Korean War.
Ninety-three families from both sides of the border had been initially due to hold a three-day gathering from Monday, but four South Korean members cancelled at the last minute because of poor health, the Red Cross said.
But the reunions are often also tinged with frustration, with many North Koreans determined to publicly demonstrate their allegiance to the regime, out of genuine loyalty or just fear.
Tens of thousands of Koreans have reunited since the early 2000s, but Monday's meet and greet was the first of its kind since 2015, after which tensions increased between the countries and reunifications were halted.
The Korean families were torn apart by political strife that ravaged the peninsula following the end of the 1950-53 war - which concluded with a truce rather than a peace treaty - and the North's ramped-up nuclear program.
"It is a shame for both governments in the South and the North that numerous families have passed away without knowing whether or not their lost relatives were alive", South Korean President Moon Jae-in told a meeting with presidential secretaries Monday.
Image The war saw the separation of children from their parents husbands and wives and brothers and sisters
In a meeting with close aides at the Blue House on Monday, Moon stressed the need to hold more reunions and broaden their scale.
Another 337 South Koreans will be granted reunions later this week.
But as those who remember the war grow old, time is running out.
Lee was one of dozens of South Koreans who gathered Sunday at the Hanwha resort hotel, in Sokcho, south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates the two Koreas, where medical checks were carried out and participants were warned about nuances of visiting North Korea.
North Korea has shifted to diplomacy in recent months.
Kim Kwang-ho, 79, speaks in front of some gifts for his family members in North Korea during an interview at his home in Seoul, South Korea.
"It is a shame for both governments that numerous families have passed away without knowing whether their lost relatives were alive", he told presidential secretaries at a meeting.
The two Koreas have occasionally allowed separated family members to reunite when the rivals' ties have been good.
Han Shin-ja, started wailing once she saw her two daughters - now in their 70s - that she had been forced to leave behind in the North during the war.
About 132,600 Koreans were listed as separated from their families by the end of July. These days, most separated families have no word on whether their long-lost relatives are still alive because their governments bar their citizens from visiting each other across the border or even exchanging phone calls, letters and email. More than 75,000 applicants have already passed away since the reunion process began.More news: Nvidia’s New Range of Graphics Cards Are Insanely Expensive