UPDATE : 2018.9.26 WED 10:44
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Second round of inter-Korean family reunions begins at Mount Kumgang

Tears streamed down the wrinkled face of Cho Jeong-gi as the 67-year-old South Korean met the North Korean father he has never seen.

"I am your first son, first son," Cho said in a trembling voice. "I had no idea I would be able to meet you."

Cho was among hundreds of people from the two Koreas who were reunited with their families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War at the North's eastern resort of Mount Kumgang on Friday.

His 88-year-old father, Deok-yong, moved to the North alone during the war, before Jeong-gi was born. His mother passed away earlier this year before she could be notified of the event.

A total of 326 South Koreans from 81 families met their long-lost kin during the second round of the meeting.

As with the first round of reunions that ended on Wednesday, this one was filled with tears, sigh and screams of joy in yet another emotional reminder of the tragic division of the peninsula.

Cho Deok-yong (2nd from L), an 88-year-old North Korean, meets his 80-year-old brother, Sang-yong (2nd from R), and his 67-year-old son, Jeong-gi, at North Korea's eastern resort of Mount Kumgang on Aug. 24, 2018, in this photo provided by the Joint Press Corps. (Yonhap)

"I thank you for being alive," Woo Gi-ju, 79, from the South, said fighting back tears as she met her 86-year-old sister, Gi-bok, who was in a wheelchair. The elder Woo had left her after saying she would go to seek an education.

Kim Jeong-sook, 81, met her 85-year-old North Korean sister, Jeong-ok, who lost contact with her family after she went to the North's eastern port city of Cheongjin to land a job.

"We came here along the rusty railway that you moved along (to the North)," Kim Jeong-sook said. "I didn't know your face. ... How were you able to remember my name?"

The reunions will last until Sunday and the participants will meet on six occasions for 12 hours in total.

Later in the day, the family members joined a dinner session.

At the session, Vice chairman Park Yong-il of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country said that "we," the Koreans, should lead the efforts for peace on the peninsula.

"The starting point for our efforts to achieve peace, prosperity and unification on the Korean Peninsula is improving North-South relations and realizing reconciliation and unity. ... What we can trust here is only the power of our Koreans," he said.

Park Kyung-seo, the head of the South Korean Red Cross, stressed the need to enable the older members of separated families to be able to freely meet their relatives.

"There isn't much time left for the older members of the divided families," he said.

"In line with the spirit of humanitarianism, we will strive harder to lessen the families' sadness," he added.

South and North Korean relatives, separated by the Korean War, meet at Mount Kumgang on Aug. 24, 2018, in this photo provided by the Joint Press Corps. (Yonhap)

The reunions were held in line with the April inter-Korean summit agreement to "endeavor to swiftly resolve the humanitarian issues that resulted from the division of the nation" and proceed with reunion programs on the occasion of the Aug. 15 Liberation Day.

There are about 57,000 South Koreans wishing to reunite with their family members in the North. Before this week's reunions, the two Koreas had held 20 rounds of such meetings since their first inter-Korean summit in 2000. (Yonhap)

Lee Sam-sun  edt@koreapost.com

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