The human drama of Korean family reunions

It is hard to imagine a more bitter-sweet event. The reunion of Korean families who have not seen each other for six decades will be a tumultuous mix of emotions. There will probably be both tears and laughter as old people divided from those they have not seen for most of their lifetimes get a brief and final meeting. More than 65,000 South Koreans were eligible for reunions with relatives in the North but only 100 were chosen. Of those hundred, 10 have sinced or become too ill to travel. The chosen, remaining few will go in a convoy of buses to the North Korean resort of Mount Kumgang, accompanied by their children and other family members.  There, they will have six two-hour meetings with their relatives from the North.  The meetings will be spread over three days so the families will spend about 12 hours together, some of it with press and TV cameras recording the emotion, and some of it in private. Because of the time that has elapsed, many are in their 80s and 90s. They are unlikely to have another meeting.  The families were split in the tumult of civil war, so many of those who ended up in the South have not even had photos or mementoes of those they left. Lee Taek-gu is 89 years old and he will meet his sister who is 20 years younger. He last saw her when she was a tiny girl and he a young man who got on a boat to flee south, thinking he would come back after the war. Since then, he has been writing letters to his parents knowing he would never send them because there is no postal service between the two halves of Korea. He wrote them as therapy for his grief. He told the BBC he would simply thank his sister for being alive. They would talk about their parents who are now dead. He has got his best jacket cleaned and spruced up for the occasion and bought a smart new hat. There will be rules about what they can discuss. Family members from the South have been given a guide by the Red Cross, under whose auspices the meetings have been organised.  That guide advises people to avoid politics. They should take gifts - money, perhaps, inexpensive watches, winter clothes, toothpaste, sugar, vitamins. After the last reunion a year ago, some South Koreans complained that they had been harangued about politics by their relatives in the North. But you can't avoid politics with these reunions, which started after a summit meeting between the leaderships of the two countries in 2000. Since then, they have not been regular, depending on the state of relations between Pyongyang and Seoul, with late cancellations at what North Korea perceives to be a slight.  With relations in a dire state over the last five years, there have only been two reunions. All told, just under 19,000 Koreans have been reunited face-to-face, and 3,750 others on video links. Whatever the politics, you can't doubt the personal, human drama involved. Choi Hyeong-jin, who is 95, said that he still feels guilty because he left his wife and two daughters in the Nor
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