Heartbreaking Photos of Korean Families Reuniting After 60 Years

A South Korean man who was offered the chance to reunite with relatives in the North sits in the lobby of a hotel in the city of Sokcho on Feb. 20, as he prepares to depart for the North Korean border.

A group of 82 elderly, frail South Koreans, two of them in ambulances, left for the North Korean border to attend the first reunion in more than three years for families divided by the 1953 Korean War.

Ed Jones / AFP

Kim Se-rin, right, and his wife Baek Hee-kyung prepare gifts for his family members in North Korea, at his house in Bucheon, South Korea, on Feb. 14. Kim was waiting to reunite with a sister he hasn't seen in six decades.

Both governments ban their citizens from visiting each other or even exchanging letters, phone calls and emails.

Ahn Young-joon / AP

Kim Sun-kyum, 91, is transported on a stretcher as he sets out to take part in the family reunion, at a hotel in Sokcho, South Korea, on Wednesday.

Lee Ji-eun / Yonhap

Ten coaches, with half a dozen police vehicles as escorts, made their way to the heavily-militarized border on Thursday.

These meetings — the first in more than three years because of high tensions — are a vivid reminder that despite 60 years of animosity, misunderstanding, threats and occasional artillery exchanges, the world's most heavily armed border divides a single people.

Lee Jong-geun / Yonhap

Yoo Youn-sik, 92, dances as he attends a welcome dinner with his North Korean family members during their reunion at the Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea on Thursday.


South Korean Park Yang-gon, left, embraces his brother Park Yang-Soo as they are reunited after being separated for 60 years.

The reunions come during a rare period of detente between the rival Koreas and are all the more poignant because the participants will part again in a few days, likely forever.

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Kim Seong-yun, left, a 96-year-old South Korean woman, meets with her sister Kim Seok-Rye, center, and other relatives living in the North.

Lee Ji-eun / YONHAP

Ryu Young-Shik, left, 92, meets with his North Korean relatives.

Pool / Getty Images AsiaPac

84-year-old Ri Jong Sil, left, meets with her South Korean sister Lee Young-sil, 87.

"Sister, why can't you hear me?" Ri asked her older sibling, who has difficulty recognizing people because of Alzheimer's disease. Tears flowed down Ri's deeply wrinkled face as Lee's daughter began sobbing, telling her mother: "Mom, it's my aunt. It's my aunt. She's your sister."

Lee Ji-eun / YONHAP

88-year-old Lee Son-hyang, left, embraces Lee Yoon Geun, 72, a relative from North Korea.

Yonhap / AFP

Lee Young-sil, 87, left, and her North Korean daughter Dong Myung-sook, 66, give food to each other at a dinner during the reunion.

These Koreans are the lucky few. Millions have been separated from loved ones by the tumult and bloodshed of the three-year war that ended in 1953. During a previous period of inter-Korean rapprochement, about 22,000 Koreans had brief reunions — 18,000 in person and the others by video. None got a second chance to reunite, Seoul says.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lee Ji-eun / Yonhap