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Separated families spent nervous day before long-awaited reunions
FEBRUARY 20, 2014 01:18  
"I have waited for more than 60 years. Now, a day feels like 60 years."

Kim Cheol-lim, 95, was excited and nervous Wednesday, a day ahead of the long-awaited reunion of families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War. Kim expects to be reunited with his two sisters who are living in North Korea. Kim, who was born in South Hamgyong Province in the North, fled his hometown during the January 4 Retreat in 1951 without knowing the departure would be a lifelong parting from them. Now he does not remember the faces of his sisters and their exact ages. He simply remembers that they should be in their 70s now. "I have so many questions to ask them but I might not be able to speak once I see them again," he said with a smile on his face. "It may be too late but I am happy to see them again before I die."

The first-floor lobby of a resort in Sokcho, Gangwon Province was crowded with separated families and presents for their families in the North. After simple health check-ups and education on Wednesday for their visit to the North, they will go to Mount Kumgang in North Korea on Thursday for the first family reunion event in four years that would be held for three days from today. The visits will be followed by a second round of reunions, for which North Koreans will visit the South to be reunited with their separated families.

Min Jae-gak, 96, the oldest person among 82 South Koreans to visit the North for the first round of reunions, showed up with his son, looking healthy. However, Min is rather regretful because his wife and three children he left in the North are already dead. Min will meet his 46-year-old grandson during this visit. "Unexpectedly, I feel calm. It seems that I have survived this long to meet my family. It`s better late than never."

Kim Seong-yoon, who is also 96 years old, is scheduled to be reunited with her younger sister Seok-ryeo, 81, and two other family members. Kim, who relies on a wheelchair said, "I could not sleep for more than two hours. I don`t know what to say when I meet my family again. I am so grateful that I am allowed to see them again even now."

Some people came directly from hospitals to see their families again. Hong Shin-ja, 84, who was born in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, underwent a spinal fracture surgery at a hospital in Seoul on Monday. She participated in the reunion event after her doctor allowed her to do so. "I was so worried until this morning that I would not be able to come," she said, looking tired on her wheelchair. "If I see my sister again for the first time in 70 years, I think I will end up just crying."

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