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Sunday, 28 April, 2002, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
Tears as Korean relatives are reunited
Two Korean women embracing
Sisters from north and south meet after many years
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By Caroline Gluck
BBC Seoul correspondent

There have been emotional scenes as hundreds of elderly relatives from North and South Korea were reunited for the first time since the Cold War divided the peninsula more than half a century ago.

Nearly 100 elderly South Koreans travelled by boat to the rendezvous, the remote north Korean mountain resort of Diamond Mountain.

The tightly-controlled reunions were a result of an agreement earlier this month between the two Koreas to resume stalled exchanges that had been suspended by the North because of tensions with the United States, a close ally of the South.

Korean accord (2002)
Resumption of family reunions
Talks on economic co-operation
Work on cross-border railway
It was the fourth exchange since the two Korean leaders held a historic summit in 2000 when they agreed to work towards reconciliation.

A previous reunion due to take place last October was abruptly cancelled by the North.

No contact

The past 50 years of division have meant that separated family members had no way of finding out until recently whether their long-lost relatives were dead or alive.

The two Koreas are still technically at war, and have no direct post or telephone or travel links.

South Korean Red Cross officials wave goodbye to ship
It is the fourth time such a union has taken place
During their first meeting, broadcast live on television, families hugged and wept.

They swapped photographs to help fill in some of the gaps of the missing years.

One son embraced a mother he had never really known as they were separated when he was just three; another sister from the South took the place of her mother who died two days earlier to meet her sister in the North.

But the reunions in the scenic but remote Diamond Mountain will last just three days and are tightly regulated.

Separated relatives will have just six meetings together.

South Korean man embracing North Korean relative
The families will be reunited for three days
South Korea regards the reunion as an urgent issue. More than a million of its citizens have immediate family in the North.

A second group will make the same journey for further reunions in three days time.

The march of time

But time is running out. Many of the elderly relatives are too ill to travel, and others have passed away.

Previously, the reunions had been held alternately in the two Koreas capitals.

South Korea has been urging the North to agree to build a permanent meeting place for separated families close to their border, something that the communist state so far has been unwilling to accept.

The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"Separated relatives come face to face for the first time in half a century"
See also:

14 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas to resume family reunions
13 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas agree new family reunions
08 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
S Korean leader hails North accord
12 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea postpones family reunions
18 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas agree to family reunions
06 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
S Korea calls for new summit
13 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Kim Dae-jung: Korean peacemaker
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