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(LEAD) S. Koreans travel to N. Korea for family reunions

All News 16:07 October 20, 2015

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with arrival; CHANGES dateline; ADDS photo)

MOUNT KUMGANG, North Korea, Oct. 20 (Yonhap) -- Hundreds of South Koreans arrived at a North Korean mountain resort Tuesday for meetings with their relatives separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The 389 members of 96 families were to meet with a total of 141 North Koreans on Mount Kumgang along the communist nation's east coast.

It marks the first inter-Korean family reunions event since February 2014, a fruit of the Aug. 25 deal between the two Koreas on ending a military standoff.

The South Koreans, mostly elderly, will stay here through Thursday for a series of six reunions that will last a total of 12 hours.

Earlier in the day, the South Koreans crossed the heavily fortified border on 16 buses. Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo saw them off at a condo in Sokcho, Gangwon Province.

They include 97-year-old Kwon Oh-hee, who will meet his 80-year-old step son Ri Han-sik.

Two women -- Yeom Ji-rye, 88, and Kim Sun-tak, 77 -- headed to the North in ambulances due to their illnesses, which have failed to stop them from meeting their long-lost family members living in the North.

North Korean border guards closely checked the belongings of South Korean visitors, including the laptops of South Korean reporters, during the customs and quarantine procedures that took about one hour.

Another round of reunions involving 250 other South Koreans of 90 families will be held from Saturday to next Monday at the resort developed by the South's Hyundai Group.

Nearly 130,000 South Koreans are registered in the government's data system as having families in the North. Half of them have already died, with around 66,000 separated family members on the waiting list.

Since the first inter-Korean summit in 2000, the two Koreas have held 19 rounds of face-to-face family reunion events. There were seven rounds of video-based reunions.


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