|Kim Jin-cheon (right) from North Korea says goodbye to his 90-year-old father Kim Sum-kyung from the South at an ambulance before he leaves Mount Geumgangsan due to health problems on Friday. (Yonhap)|
Around 80 elderly South Koreans met privately Friday with North Korean relatives they haven’t seen for 60 years, on the second day of a highly-charged reunion for families divided by the Korean War.
In contrast to the previous day when their tearful and, in some cases, clearly traumatic meetings were played out in front of TV cameras, they were allowed three hours in their own rooms to try and bridge the decades of separation.
The event, held at a mountain resort in North Korea, was only secured after intense North-South negotiations, and has been seen by many as a possible first step towards improved inter-Korean cooperation.
It is the first such reunion in more than three years, and followed a rare concession from North Korea, which had originally threatened to cancel if the South and the United States pushed ahead with annual joint military drills that begin on Monday.
North Korea’s main ally China, which has come under increased US pressure to push Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear weapons program, welcomed the reunion as a moment of “great significance.”
“We believe this is an important and correct step forward taken ... with national interests and regional peace and stability in mind,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing.
In an apparent goodwill gesture, Seoul approved Friday the shipment by two private aid groups of close to $1 million worth of tuberculosis medicine and powdered milk to North Korea.
The 82 South Korean participants, with an average age of 84 and some so frail they had to be moved by ambulance, arrived at the resort midday Thursday after crossing the heavily militarized border in a convoy of 10 buses.
After a brief lunch, they were led into a banquet hall where they first came face-to-face with the 180 North Korean relatives they had applied to see.
Some simply embraced and sobbed, while others stared and stroked each other’s faces, seemingly unable to believe that they were in the same room. (AFP)