More laughter than tears for Korean families at cross-border reunions

October 21, 2015
North Korean Kim Chang Ho, 87, second from right, toasts with his South Korean family members at a luncheon during the Separated Family Reunion Meeting at Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. Hundreds of elderly Koreans from divided North and South began three days of reunions Tuesday with loved ones many have had no contact with since the war between the countries more than 60 years ago. (Kim Do-hoon/Yonhap via AP)

North Korean Kim Chang Ho, 87, second from right, toasts with his South Korean family members at a luncheon during the Separated Family Reunion Meeting at Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. Hundreds of elderly Koreans from divided North and South began three days of reunions Tuesday with loved ones many have had no contact with since the war between the countries more than 60 years ago. (Kim Do-hoon/Yonhap via AP)

North Korean family member Sin Kyong Muk, 82, is carried by his South Korean niece's husband Jeong Wu-il, 55, on his back during the Separated Family Reunion Meeting at Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. Hundreds of elderly Koreans from divided North and South began three days of reunions Tuesday with loved ones many have had no contact with since the war between the countries more than 60 years ago. (Kim Do-hoon/Yonhap via AP)

North Korean family member Sin Kyong Muk, 82, is carried by his South Korean niece’s husband Jeong Wu-il, 55, on his back during the Separated Family Reunion Meeting at Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. Hundreds of elderly Koreans from divided North and South began three days of reunions Tuesday with loved ones many have had no contact with since the war between the countries more than 60 years ago. (Kim Do-hoon/Yonhap via AP)

MOUNT KUMGANG, North Korea (Yonhap) — A warmer mood was palpable Wednesday at the North Korean mountain resort where Koreans are meeting their long-separated families from the other side of the border.

On the second day of the inter-Korean event, 389 South Koreans from 96 families had private reunions with their relatives living in the North.

The closed-door meetings lasted two hours at a hotel in Mount Kumgang along the communist nation’s east coast.

Sixty-seven-year-old Yang Yong-rye from the South said the meeting with her uncle Ryang Man-yong, 83, had a cozier atmosphere than those a day earlier.

“Seeing him today again, it seems like we have become closer, with minds open,” she said.

They also had lunch together at a condo-style edifice, dubbed a “meeting place for separated families,” next to the hotel.

Many other South Koreans agreed that Wednesday’s reunions were less awkward and more convenient, with more laughter than tears.

Some North Koreans brought bottles of the country’s traditional liquor as a souvenir for their southern relatives.

The South Koreans arrived in the North on Tuesday and immediately had emotionally charged reunions en masse in front of pool reporters, followed by a dinner session.

They are scheduled to stay here through Thursday before returning home.

It is the first inter-Korean family reunion event in a year and eight months, a result of the Aug. 25 deal between the two Koreas on ending a military standoff.

Another round of reunions involving 250 more South Koreans from 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 database as having families in the North, split by the 1950-53 Korean War. Half of them have already died, with around 66,000 people on the waiting list.

The border between the two Koreas remains tightly sealed, with no cross-border travel, phone calls or email exchanges allowed.

The two Koreas are technically in a state of war as the Korean War ended in a ceasefire, not a peace treaty.

Such a family reunion event began as a result of the first inter-Korean summit in 2000. Twenty face-to-face family reunion events have been held so far. There were also seven video chat reunions.

Meanwhile, the North’s state media carried a series of reports on the ongoing family reunions.

The Rodong Sinmun, a major state mouthpiece, reported that the venue was filled with joy over meeting long-lost family members and the desire for the reunification of the two Koreas.

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