Page last updated at 10:01 GMT, Saturday, 26 September 2009 11:01 UK

Korean families in rare reunion


Roh Song-ho met his South Korean sister, for the first time since being abducted at sea decades ago by the North

A group of elderly South Koreans has made a rare journey across the heavily fortified border to visit long-lost relatives in the communist North.

Two hundred families were chosen to take part in the reunions after more than half a century of separation since the Korean civil war.

The two Koreas began reunions in 2000, but the programme was suspended two years ago because of political tension.

The resumption is being seen as a sign of a possible thaw in relations.

There has been no phone or even postal contact between North and South since the end of the Korean war in 1953.

Joy and sorrow

On Saturday, a group of 97 South Koreans drove across the border to meet their relatives at the Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea.

I can die after visiting the North with no regrets

South Korean widow Lee Sun-ok, 80

The reunion was an outpouring of joy and relief but also sorrow.

Kim Yu-jum, now aged 100, was separated from her 16-year-old daughter in the chaos of war and they ended up on separate sides of the front line.

"For the past half-century I've never forgotten her. Every day I thought of her," she told the BBC.

Widow Lee Sun-ok, 80, travelled to North Korea to meet two younger sisters and one younger brother for the first time in 60 years.

"I never thought I could see them again," she told the Associated Press. "I can die after visiting the North with no regrets."

The BBC's John Sudworth, in Seoul, say that with many relatives in their 80s and 90s, it is likely to be their only chance to see their families.

The six-day reunion event is being organised by the Unification Ministry which handles inter-Korean affairs.

Reunions were last held in October 2007.

North Korea agreed last month to resume them as part of a slight easing of tensions with South Korea and the US over its nuclear and missile programmes.

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