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SAT, 2014-11-01  KST

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Koreas hold new round of reunions for war-separated families

Updated: 2014-02-24 20:55:15 KST
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A fresh round of reunions for war-separated families got under way at North Korea's Mt. Kumgang on this Monday And 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 of what's happening on the second day of the reunions.

On the second day of the reunions, the families have a time to catch up and talk freely during the individual meetings which are held behind closed-doors with no media or government officials.
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 because some families begin to worry about the next day, which is the last day of the event.
The event runs for three days, but the families only have a total of 11 hours together and on the final 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 first round was composed of 82 South Korean divided family members who applied for the event and around 1-hundred-50 North Koreans.
The new round was arranged by North Korea, with 88 North Korean divided family members who were hand-picked by the party and over 3-hundred-50 South Koreans.
So the current reunion is much larger in scale.
But all families at the reunion event have heartbreaking stories of their own.
For one man, the last time he saw his daughter was when she was one-year-old, but now she has turned into a 61-year-old woman.
This family is actually the only parent-child reunion at the new round of reunions, which is a reminder that time is running out for the aging divided family members to see each other again and that there is a need for these meetings to be held on a regular basis.

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?

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.
North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency was prompt with its report on the family reunions and it's also rare to see the isolated state make such reports on the day of the event.
On a more personal note, North Korean officials and journalists that I met at the reunion site talked a lot about the importance of reunification.
One of them even jokingly made a suggestion that upon reunification, I should marry a North Korean man.

Sung-hee, thanks for joining us tonight.


Reporter : ssung86@arirang.co.kr

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