Reunited families meet on day 2 with more ease

North and South Korean family members meet during the separated family reunions at Mount Kumgang resort.
PHOTO: Reuters

MOUNT GEUMGANGSAN, North Korea ― Acute emotions eased and awkwardness was replaced by warm familiarity as the members of 91 separated families got together again Wednesday, the second day of the reunions.

At the Mount Geumgangsan resort, 389 people from the South and 141 from the North met for individual gatherings in the morning, a joint lunch session and another round of group reunions in the afternoon.

"Mother had prayed for your well-being so many times (when she was alive)," Won Hwa-ja, 74, from the South said, as she talked with her 82-year-old brother Won Gyu-sang from the North during the two-hour group reunions.

"She was very worried about your life in the North, even when she was near her death. I am sad that we will soon be separated again."

Lee Hong-jong, 88, from the North sang a plaintive folk song for his 68-year-old daughter Lee Jung-suk, as she recalled the time when her father played the guitar and sang songs for her family.

During the individual gatherings in the morning, all participants hoped they could keep in touch with one another through various means including mail exchanges. The first round of the three-day reunions ends Thursday.

"Holding these onetime reunions is not enough. There should be measures taken to allow us to regularly exchange letters," Kang Jeong-gu, 81, who was reunited with his 82-year-old cousin Kang Yong-suk, said.

Lee Min-hee, 54, met with her 85-year-old uncle, Do Hong-gyu. During their private meeting, they wished they could continue to stay together.

"As we talked together in a room separately, we felt much more comfortable," Lee said after the individual gathering. "I told him to apply for the future reunions so that we can meet again, although he expressed doubts whether he can meet her again, because of his old age."

In the morning, South and North Korean participants exchanged gifts that they said could be the first and last, unless the two Koreas achieve reunification.

North Koreans gave their South Korean relatives blue shopping bags with their country's traditional products, including liquors. The items appeared to have been provided by North Korean government authorities.

South Korean participants brought thick coats, medicine, underclothes, toothpaste and other basic commodities, thinking those items would be hard to get in the impoverished state under long-standing sanctions over its nuclear and missile development.

Many South Korean participants looked worried as their North Korean kin might be having difficulty amid continuing news reports on the North's poor economic conditions.

"You should have lived a good life. ... I feel (sorry) that you seem to have led a difficult life," Kim Ju-cheol, 83, said in a tearful voice as he ate lunch with his 85-year-old brother Kim Ju-song.

All those attending the first round of the reunions are to bid farewell to one another on Thursday.

The second round of the reunions are to begin Saturday and end next Monday. More than 250 people from 90 families, which the South's Red Cross selected through a computer lottery, will meet their relatives in the North during the second round.