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Tearful family reunions resume in North Korea

SEOUL -- Their backs stooped, dozens of elderly North and South Koreans separated for six decades reunited Thursday, weeping and embracing in a rush of words and emotion. The reunions come during a rare period of detente between the rival Koreas and are all the more poignant because the participants will part again in a few days, likely forever.

About 80 South Koreans traveled through falling snow with their families to North Korea's Diamond Mountain resort to meet children, brothers, sisters, spouses and other relatives. Seoul had said about 180 North Koreans were expected.

South Korean TV showed old women in brightly colored traditional hanbok dresses talking and hugging, families trading photographs of relatives who couldn't attend or had died. Two men in suits and ties wiped away tears, grasped each other by the necks and pressed their foreheads together as cameras flashed. One old man was wheeled in on a stretcher, his head propped on a pillow, a blue blanket wrapped tightly around him.

These meetings β€” the first in more than three years because of high tensions β€” are a vivid reminder that despite 60 years of animosity, misunderstanding, threats and occasional artillery exchanges, the world's most heavily armed border divides a single people.

The reunion came too late for 90-year-old Seo Jeong-suk, who died in South Korea just 15 days ago. Her daughter Kim Yong-ja, 68, sobbed as she handed her long-lost sister a framed photograph of Seo. Kim Yong Sil clasped the photo to her heart and said, β€œIt's mom's photo.”

For some other families, aging and illness did not thwart the reunions but made them bittersweet.

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Park Yang-gon, of South Korea, left, and his North Korean brother Park Yang Soo embrace as they meet during the Separated Family Reunion Meeting at Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea on Thursday, Feb. 20. (AP)

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