Such a unique yet heartwrenching scene played out in Korea yesterday (Tuesday, 20th October) as numerous families separated for decades due to the (technically still ongoing) war between North and South Korea reunite.
During the Korean War, millions of people were forced to be separated from each other and have since been banned from crossing or communicating across the DMZ border. Some of these families/relatives/loved ones haven’t seen each other in over 60 years.
96 families briefly reunited at the Mount Kumgang resort in Noth Korea yesterday. The hall where the reunions took place echoed with weeping and laughter as siblings hugged one another and graying children buried their tearful faces in the laps of parents who had shown up in wheelchairs, barely recognising them.
One story of a couple in particular touched our hearts.
Lee Soon-gyu and Oh In-se were the tender ages of 20 and 18 respectively when they were separated. At that time, they had just gotten married and Lee was 6 months pregnant. The couple have spent a total of 65 years stuck on the opposite sides of the Korean peninsula. Their son, 65-year-old Oh Jang-gyun, who has never met his father, was also present at the meet.
According to a Hankyoreh article, the now 83-year-old Oh revealed it was love at first sight as he told his wife, “Come sit next to me,” the very first time he saw her.
“I can’t tell how much I missed you,” said 85-year-old Lee, who never remarried and raised her son alone. “I have wept so much thinking of us that there are no tears left in me.”
Lee was said to have clasped a watch around her husband’s wrist the moment they met. Lee explained, “Back then in the countryside, watches were very valuable. My heart always ached from the fact that I couldn’t even give my husband a watch so I bought one (for today).”
The couple’s names are inscribed on the back of the watch.
Oh Jang-gyun, the child who was in Lee’s womb at the time the wife and husband were separated, also got to fulfill his lifelong wish.
“I really want to say the word ‘father’ out loud,” he said in an interview with Seoul-based news website Newsis. “I have missed him my entire life.” He wanted his father to take his mother’s hand and apologise for the years she had to spend without him, he said, and for all the hardships she and their son endured.
Jang-gyun added that while his father managed to start a new family in North Korea, his mother struggled to make ends meet, working on a farm during the day and as a tailor at night.
Just you try to remain dry-eyed as you watch the emotional video below:
Their time was to be painfully brief. They were granted permission to be together for only 12 hours, in group and private sessions, until Thursday (22nd October), when they will have to part again. On Thursday, an additional 90 elderly South Koreans will cross the border for another round of 3-day reunions with 188 relatives in the North.
The program, which allows reunions of family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean war, is organised by the South Korean Red Cross. There have been about 20 reunions, limited to only a couple hundred people. since 1985.