44 photos of emotional Korean family reunions will melt your heart
- After more than 60 years apart, hundreds of South and North Korean families separated at the end of the Korean War in 1950 were reunited in August.
- During the reunions, relatives embraced, cried, laughed, and discussed the lives they had missed out on together.
- Here's an inside look at the heartwarming reunions.
Almost 180 families from North and South Korea hugged, laughed, and cried as they came together for the first time in 65 years.
After the separation of the two Koreas, thousands of parents, children, siblings, and other relatives became almost completely isolated from each other.
Through a series of family reunions organized by the Red Cross, select family members sat down together with their long-lost relatives for 11 hours over the course of three days in August.
Take a look at the photos of their reunions:
After Korea was divided into two countries, families that lived in opposite regions from each other were separated — mothers from their children, brothers from sisters.
To this day, many families do not know what happened to their relatives on the other side of the border.
But in 1985, the first Korean family reunion was held, and almost 150 Koreans got to see their separated family members for the first time in over 30 years.
It would take 15 more years for another reunion to be held.
Years went by, with many Koreans passing away and their hopes of seeing their separated loved ones dashed.
But in 2000, both Koreas agreed to make the reunions a more regular annual event.
Seventeen reunions have been held since then.
And an estimated 21,000 Koreans have been reunited with their family members during those meetings.
For South Koreans, to be chosen to take part in a reunion, you must enter a lottery, which is based based partly on age and how close the family ties are.
For North Koreans, however, less is known about how the government chooses which citizens are awarded reunions.
Almost 200 Korean families attended the most recent reunions in August, embracing and visiting with loved ones that they haven't seen in more than 60 years.
That's a fraction of the 57,000 South Koreans who registered for this round of reunions but were not chosen to participate.
Not to mention the thousands of others who have died before being considered as reunion candidates.
The last time families separated by the two Koreas reunited was in 2015.
There were two rounds of reunions this year ...
... and each reunion lasted a mere 11 hours over the course of three days.
Before meeting, South Koreans were debriefed on rules set by North Korea and were told to avoid saying anything that could be interpreted as offensive or insensitive to the North.
Some entered the reunions in wheelchairs.
During the reunions, families congregated in a large conference room at the Diamond Mountain Resort in North Korea...
... and had private meetings in hotel rooms.
Lee Geum-seom, 92, of South Korea, got to hug her son Ri Sang-chol, a 71-year-old North Korean, for the first time in more than 60 years.
During their reunion, Lee held her son's hand...
... reminisced with him about family members who could not make it to the reunion...
... and asked her son countless questions, including, “How many children do you have?” and “Do you have a son?”
Relatives brought each other gifts in the forms of clothes, medicine, toiletries, and food.
Anything more luxurious would not make it past a checkpoint and would be confiscated by security.
Many Koreans also brought photographs of decades past to reminisce...
...but also to help them recognize their family members, since it had been decades since they last saw each other.
They brought updated family snapshots and memories made since they'd been divided.
And took some new portraits together.
Not to mention some selfies. Many attendees documented the time spent together ...
... as they knew it would likely be their only meeting.
Survivors say, though they are happy to see their families again, the reunions can be traumatizing...
According to a survey by the Red Cross, more than 25% of previous reunion participants faced depression and found it difficult to continue their daily lives afterward.
It's especially troubling when it's time to say goodbye.
Like many others, Lee cried as she waved her final goodbye through the bus window to her son.
Many elderly relatives took the goodbyes especially hard.
Since most of the attendees are over 70 years old...
...and since so many other families are waiting to be reunited...
.... they will likely not be chosen to attend a future reunion.
As a supplement to the sporadic reunions, South Korea has also been pushing for more video conferences between separated relatives.
But rocky ties with its northern neighbor often gets in the way of the program.
For every year that goes by, an estimated 4,000 Koreans on the waiting list die without having the chance to attend a reunion.