South Koreans Travel North for Emotional Family Reunions

First time seeing relatives in decades

  • Share
  • Read Later

Like TIME on Facebook for more breaking news and current events from around the globe!

A small group of elderly South Koreans traveled by bus and ambulance to North Korea on Thursday to visit with relatives they hadn’t seen in decades, in the first family reunions on the divided peninsula in three years.

For some, the emotionally charged reunions were tinged with guilt, as South Koreans attempted to explain why they’d fled the North to siblings they hadn’t seen since they were children, the New York Times reports. “Grandfather told me to run, run and go to the south, away from the war, because I was his eldest grandson,” Lee Beom-ju, 86, told his brother and sister he hadn’t seen in 63 years. “I am sorry.”

Foreign media were not allowed to cover the event and reports came from local Korean news sources.

In all, 83 elderly South Koreans crossed the border to visit 178 North Korean relatives. The family reunions are a small but noteworthy step toward easing relations that have remained tense for years.