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Last Updated: Friday, 27 June, 2003, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Koreans hold emotional reunion
Korean reunion
Many of those desperate to meet their relatives are elderly
More than 100 elderly South Koreans travelled to the North on Friday for a tearful reunion with relatives they had not seen since the Korean war ended nearly 50 years ago.

Tens of thousands of Koreans have been cut off from their families - with no mail, telephone service or other form of communication between them.

But since the two sides held an unprecedented summit in 2000, there have been seven rounds of temporary reunions, allowing a lucky few to see each other again - all-be-it for only a few days.

The reunions are always surrounded by intense emotion, not least because many of those desperate to be reunited with their relatives are becoming increasingly frail.

Thousands die every year before getting the chance to be reunited with loved ones.

Friday's trip to North Korea's Diamond Mountain resort, included three South Koreans aged more than 100 years old.

Chun Eung-oh, 85, said she did not want to return to the South and leave her son, Park Un Jin, 65, in the North.

"When I return, I will be alone. I have no one in the South. Can I live with you?" she asked her son, who was unable to answer.

Both Koreas have agreed to set up a permanent family reunion centre, where separated relatives could meet more easily.

But tensions over North Korea's nuclear ambitions have cast doubt over the proposals, and lessened the hopes of many thousands of families.

'Grave threat'

More than a million people crowded Pyongyang's streets for anti-American rallies on Wednesday, as part of the government commemorations marking the 53rd anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.

Pyongyang citizens hold a rally condemning the US anti-North Korea policy
More than a million N Koreans took part in Wednesday's anti-US rally
On Friday, the American ambassador to Japan, Howard Baker, said North Korea posed a "grave" threat to world peace.

"I hope they understand that time is not on their side," he said, adding that "sooner or later, patience expires".

He urged the Stalinist state to take steps to abandon its nuclear programme as soon as possible.

He also suggested that Washington was unlikely to continue with plans to construct nuclear power plants in North Korea, if Pyongyang did not put a stop to its weapons programme.

"My guess is that if... they do not decide to engage in dismantlement of their weapons programme, it is unlikely that the United States would support the completion of those reactors beyond the commitments that we've undertaken in the framework agreement," Mr Baker said.

But Japan signalled on Friday that it was not yet ready to abandon the project.

"We are not presently thinking of putting an end to it," said Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi.

The US$4.6bn construction project, backed by the US, the European Union, Japan and South Korea, has been in doubt since the US claimed last year that Pyongyang had admitted to a secret nuclear programme.

The project was designed to build two light-water reactors in North Korea, as part of a 1994 agreement to keep the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.




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