Korean Families Reunite After Decades Apart

ByABC News
August 15, 2000, 11:55 AM

S E O U L, South Korea, Aug. 15 -- One hundred North Koreans were reunited with Southern relatives separated for a half-century in an outpouring of joy and pain televised live today in South Korea.

The scenes were repeated in Pyongyang, capital of the reclusiveStalinist North, where 100 South Koreans met with relatives forfour-day reunions that the leaders of the two Koreas agreed upon at asummit in June.

In Seoul, the elderly North Koreans, arriving from Pyongyang,were ushered into a giant hall at a convention center wherethe families were waiting. Cries and moans filled the room.

Mother, be calm. Your son is here, a 68-year-old man toldhis 95-year-old mother, who was so overcome with emotion that anurse rushed to her side to take her blood pressure.

Father, father, 52-year-old Cho Kyong-jae cried, kneeling infront of 78-year-old Cho Yong Gwan from North Korea.

Oh, my son. Im sorry. Youve grown up nicely, said theelder Cho, a state-decorated scientist in the North who was draftedinto the communist army during the 1950-53 Korean War. His wifedied 34 years ago, Chos son told him.

A Window on Pain and Separation

Men and women clutched each other, weeping and wailing. Theyconsoled each other with pats on the back and offered handkerchiefsto wipe away tears. Some were quieter, sad and pensive. Later, theyexchanged family stories and looked at old photo albums.

The reunions offered a window on the pain of separation sufferedby millions of Koreans on both sides of a sealed, militarizedborder that is the legacy of decades of hostility.

Family reunions are one of the most emotional issues that havedefined the long-running standoff between the two Koreas, whichwere once devoted to each others downfall but have made greatstrides toward reconciliation in recent months.

When the North Koreans arrived earlier today, their planepicked up 100 South Koreans to take to Pyongyang, where theirreunions were televised with a slight delay in the south.