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Home / News / Koreans divided by war prepare to meet family

Koreans divided by war prepare to meet family

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With tensions on the Korean peninsula easing, North and South Korea are holding a cross border reunion for families that were split during the Korean war. The select few who were chosen are now preparing to see their relatives for the first time in almost 70 years.

For the first time since the Korean war, 82 year-old Bae Soon-hui is getting ready to see her family.

(SOUNDBITE) (Korean) 82-YEAR-OLD SOUTH KOREAN WOMAN, BAE SOON-HUI, SAYING:

“I’ve been told only two of my six siblings are still alive – my older and younger sisters.”

Her sisters – are in North Korea.

Next week, only 90 out of a list of 57 thousand South Koreans are heading to the North, to see their long lost relatives.

Bae is one of the lucky ones.

(SOUNDBITE) (Korean) 82-YEAR-OLD SOUTH KOREAN WOMAN, BAE SOON-HUI, SAYING:

“I was completely blank. I couldn’t tell if I was awake or dreaming.”

It’s been nearly 70 years, but Bae still tears up when she talks about her family.

She wants to know how they’ve lived their lives and how her mother died.

It’s a chance she might never get again.

Family reunions between the countries are sporadic at best, and depend on whether ties are good with the North.

The last reunion was 3 years ago.

Since 1988, over 130 thousand South Koreans have added their names to a government registry.

But survivors of the war are aging quickly, and over half the people on that list have already died.

The vast majority without seeing their relatives again.

But even those who were lucky enough to see their family speak of a different trauma.

91 year-old Kim Hyun-sook saw her daughter and granddaughter in 2015.

She was torn away from them after only a few short hours.

(SOUNDBITE) (Korean) 90-YEAR-OLD-SOUTH KOREAN WOMAN, KIM HYUN-SOOK, SAYING:

“It felt like they were cutting off my flesh. Anyone who has given birth knows what it feels like to leave their children behind.”

Kim says she wants to see her family again before she dies, but like many others, this time around she wasn’t chosen.

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