Some 90 families from the two Koreas were reunited in the North on Monday, weeping and embracing each after being torn apart for more than six decades by the 1950 to 1953 Korean War.
The brief reunions, which will last only 11 hours, are the first in three years, and took place in the North’s tourist resort on Mount Kumgang after the two Koreas renewed exchanges this year following a standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un and South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, agreed to the latest round of reunions during their first summit in April.
About 330 South Koreans from 89 families, many of them in wheelchairs, gathered with 185 lost relatives from the North, embracing with tears, joy and disbelief.
Some were struggling to recognize family they have not seen in more than 60 years.
“Uncles, take my deep bow,” said Seo Soon-gyo, 55, as her 87-year-old father, Seo Jin-ho, met with two younger brothers, Chan Ho and Won Ho.
Kim Gyong Sil and Gyong Yong, 72 and 71, wearing light violet traditional dress of hanbok, stood nervously staring at the entrance before their 99-year-old mother Han Shin-ja turned up.
They could not speak for minutes, wailing loudly and rubbed their cheeks and hands.
“When I fled home in the war,” said Han, failing to continue as she choked up with emotions.
The separated families are victims of a decades-long political gridlock between the neighbours, which has escalated over the past several years as Pyongyang rapidly advanced its weapons programmes.
More than 57,000 South Korean survivors have registered for the brief family reunion which often ends in painful farewells.
For years, Seoul has been calling for regular meetings between separated families including using video conferences, but the reunion programmes often fell victim to fragile relations with Pyongyang.
During his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in June, Kim pledged to abandon his country’s nuclear programs if Washington provided security guarantees, but the two sides have since struggled to agree on how to reach that goal.
South Korean president Moon, himself a member of a separated family from the North’s eastern port city of Hungnam, said on Monday that the reunions should be sharply scaled up and held on a regular basis and include exchanges of visits and letters.
“It is a shame for both governments in the South and the North that many of the families have passed away without knowing whether or not their lost relatives were alive,” Mr Moon told a meeting with presidential secretaries.
“Expanding and accelerating family reunions is a top priority among humanitarian projects to be carried out by the two Koreas.”
Ninety-three families from both sides of the border were initially scheduled for a three-day gathering from Monday, but four South Korean members cancelled their trip to the North at the last minute due to health conditions, the Red Cross said.