SEOUL — Hundreds of North and South Korean relatives separated for half a century held face-to-face reunions at North Korea’s scenic Mount Kumgang resort, officials said.
About 400 South Koreans made the trip across the border to meet 97 North Koreans. A second group of South Koreans will travel to Mount Kumgang later in the week, a South Korean Red Cross official told AFP.
The North last year halted reunions for families separated since the 1950-53 Korean war in retaliation for the suspension of Seoul’s rice aid. They resumed in May.
At a rare inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang earlier this month, South Korea’s Roh Moo-hyun and the North’s Kim Jong-il agreed to speed up family reunions and the construction of a permanent reunion center at the resort.
Since the first Korean peace summit in 2000, about 15,000 Koreans have been allowed face-to-face meetings. About 2,700 others, many of whom are too infirm to travel for meetings, have been reunited via video link since August 2005.
Even so, more than 90,000 people from the South alone have not seen loved ones since the war ended. There are no mail or telephone services across the heavily fortified border.
South Korea regards family reunions as a pressing issue because many relatives are desperate to see family members before they die.