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Koreas hold new round of reunions for war-separated families Updated: 2014-02-24 16:15:23 KST

Koreas hold new round of reunions for war-separated families
A fresh round of reunions for war-separated families got under way at North Korea's Mt. Kumgang on this Monday.

For more, we are joined in the studio by our Hwang Sung-hee.
Sung-hee, you returned Saturday from Mt. Kumgang after covering the first round of reunions.
Give us an idea, if you would, of what's happening on this, the second day of the second round of reunions.

Good evening, guys.
On the second day of the reunions, the families have three chances to reunite -- individual meetings in the morning, a group luncheon and a group meeting in the afternoon.
The individual meetings are held behind closed-doors -- with no media or government officials present-- so this is when the families really have a chance to catch up and talk freely.
I noticed that up until the individual meetings, the atmosphere was a bit subdued, since the decades of separation do make the families feel a bit awkward around each other at first.
But after the individual meetings, the mood picks up and the families get a bit chattier during the group luncheon.
Things start to get emotional and teary during the final few minutes of the group meeting on the second day of the reunions.
That's because this is when the families begin to worry about the next day, which is the last day of the event, and the day that they have to say goodbye once again.
Although the event runs for three days, the families only have a total of 11 hours together and on the last day, they only meet for an hour in the morning before bidding farewell.

And how is the new round of reunions different from the first round?

The new round, which began yesterday, is much larger in scale than the first round with nearly 5-hundred divided family members from both sides of the border taking part.
Looking at the footage from Mt. Kumgang, it seems the atmosphere is also different.
When I was in the North last week, North Korean family members refrained from openly expressing their emotions, with North Korean officials even warning those who got too much attention from the South Korean media.
This time around, they seem more relaxed about showing their emotions.
This is probably because the new round was arranged by North Korea, with 88 North Korean divided family members who were hand-picked by the party.
The first round, in contrast, was arranged by the South.

This is the first time in more than three years that the two Koreas have held reunions for war-separated families and so far, it looks like things are going smoothly.
Can we take this as a sign that inter-Korean relations may be improving?

From what I saw, North Korea has been very cooperative with conducting a succesful reunion event.
For one, South Korea and the U.S. began their annual joint military drills today despite North Korea's continued calls for their cancellation.
It is very rare to see the family reunions -- something that requires cooperation between the Koreas -- and the joint drills to take place at the same time, and it's quite surprising that the North has so far only criticized Washington for the exercises.
Also, North Korean officials and journalists that I met at the reunion site talked a lot about the importance of reunification.
If inter-Korean relations do improve down the road, these reunion events could be held on a regular basis.
That is important because over half of the divided family members are over the age of 80 and time is running out for them to see each other again one last time.

That was our Hwang Sung-hee on the new round of reunions for war-separated families.
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