By Alex Jensen
SEOUL (AA) – As many as 89 elderly South Korean citizens traveled north of the inter-Korean border Monday to meet family members they had not seen, in some cases, for nearly seven decades.
The reunion event started at 3 p.m. local time (0600 GMT) in North Korea’s scenic Mount Kumgang area, with six meetings planned until Wednesday for a total of 11 hours before the relatives are separated again.
This first round of inter-Korean family reunions since 2015 has been arranged after the neighboring countries put aside their differences in April for a breakthrough summit following a gap of more than a decade when they had previously held a leaders’ meeting.
But with 57,000 South Korean citizens still waiting to meet family members from the North, time is pressing — most of the 89 participants chosen from the South are in their 70s or 80s, while the oldest is 101.
Some of them asked to see relatives, who were later found to have passed away, so they are meeting other family members such as nieces and nephews.
83 North Koreans have been selected to meet their kin from the South later in the week — from Friday to Sunday.
Inter-Korean travel remains strictly controlled by the governments of both Seoul and Pyongyang, as a heavily guarded border divides the peninsula — a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War which is yet to be settled with a peace treaty.