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Sunday 19 November 2017

Tears as North Korea allows family reunions


HUNDREDS of Korean family members separated for more than half a century by the Korean War embraced each other in tearful reunions yesterday, a day after troops exchanged gunfire in the Demilitarised Zone dividing the countries.

"I thought you were dead. Mother missed you so much," 61-year-old South Korean Lee Min-gwan told his 90-year-old North Korean father, Ri Jong Ryol.

Lee was among 436 South Koreans who travelled by bus to North Korea's Diamond Mountain resort to take part in the three-day reunions with about 100 North Korean relatives.

The event is the first in a two-part series of reunions. On Wednesday, about 200 North Koreans are to begin similar three-day reunions with their South Korean relatives at the same resort.

Millions of Korean families were separated after the Korean peninsula's division in 1945 and the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea proposed the reunions -- the first in more than a year -- in an apparent conciliatory move after tensions flared over the sinking of a South Korean warship. An international investigation concluded that a North Korean torpedo sank the ship, killing 46 South Korean sailors. North Korea, however, denies involvement.

North Korea has also freed the crew of a South Korean fishing boat seized in August. In an apparent response to its overtures, South Korea sent 5,000 tons of rice to North Korea last week as part of 10 billion won (€6.1m) in pledged flood aid.

However, in an abrupt reversal Friday of the apparent thaw in tensions, North Korea fired two rounds at a South Korean guard post in the Demilitarised Zone and South Korean troops immediately fired back. No injuries were reported, and the reason for the attack was unclear.

The shooting came just hours after North Korea threatened to retaliate for South Korea's refusal last week to hold military talks.

Sunday Independent

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