Sun | Dec 16, 2018

Emotional Korean reunions

Published:Wednesday | August 22, 2018 | 12:00 AM
South Korean Lee Keum-seom (centre) 92, hugs her North Korean son Ri Sang Chol, 71, with Kim Ok Hu i (left), daughter-in-law of Ri Sang Chol, during the Separated Family Reunion Meeting in North Korea on Monday.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP):

A mother wailed as she embraced a son she had not seen since the 1950-53 Korean War. A woman wept as she greeted a grandfather she never got to know.

The scenes of Koreans meeting this week, likely for the last time before they die, are heartbreaking, but they often hide a highly political and tightly controlled event in which participants often struggle to have genuine conversations.

Much of the awkwardness centres on the defining fact of the Korean Peninsula: For decades, it has been divided between the authoritarian North, originally backed by the Soviet Union and then, during the war, communist China, and the United States-backed capitalist South.

Citizens from both nations, especially the elderly who remember the bitterness and bloodshed of the war, often wear their nationalism on their sleeves, and some South Koreans have complained that their relatives take every chance to score propaganda points for their authoritarian nation.

About 200 South Koreans and their family members crossed the border on Monday for three days of meetings with their North Korean relatives.

The relatives were given a total of 12 hours together, including three hours in private. Another 337 South Koreans and accompanying family members will participate in a second round of reunions from Friday to Sunday.