Reuters

Mementos of Korea's divided families

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Choi Jung-sook, 84, at her house in Namyangju. Choi said that she thought her sister had died in the Korean War, but she was able to see her again at the reunion. "I took photos with a disposable camera, but it broke down or something and the film strips didn't develop. We took a lot of photos but I can't see any of them and that breaks my heart. I don't expect to be able to meet my sister soon. I just want to be able to write her...more

Choi Jung-sook, 84, at her house in Namyangju. Choi said that she thought her sister had died in the Korean War, but she was able to see her again at the reunion. "I took photos with a disposable camera, but it broke down or something and the film strips didn't develop. We took a lot of photos but I can't see any of them and that breaks my heart. I don't expect to be able to meet my sister soon. I just want to be able to write her letters and call her," Choi said. The latest family reunion for those separated in North and South Korea was held on February 20-25 at the Mount Kumgang resort just north of the border and a total of 813 family members met in tears and joy. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Heo Gyeong-ok, 87, at her house in Seoul. Heo said that during the Korean War, her husband left home to seek refuge in the South and she followed him with their one-year-old son, leaving her siblings behind. "I don't have a lot of memories with my two younger siblings because they were just 13 and 15 when I left home. I've been applying for the family reunions for 14 years and finally got my chance this year. I thought I wouldn't...more

Heo Gyeong-ok, 87, at her house in Seoul. Heo said that during the Korean War, her husband left home to seek refuge in the South and she followed him with their one-year-old son, leaving her siblings behind. "I don't have a lot of memories with my two younger siblings because they were just 13 and 15 when I left home. I've been applying for the family reunions for 14 years and finally got my chance this year. I thought I wouldn't be able to recognize them if we got to meet. When I met them this time, I asked them our parents' names and they remembered. I thought, "Yes, they really are my siblings," Heo said. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Kim Chang-nam, 71, at his house in Seoul. Kim said that during the Korean War, his older sister and older brother went to Pyongyang to find their uncle. He said that he thought his sister was dead, but he was able to see her again thanks to the family reunions. "I never understood what it meant to be a war-torn family member until I heard my sister was alive [and] looking for me. I just didn't know where to start. I feel like I...more

Kim Chang-nam, 71, at his house in Seoul. Kim said that during the Korean War, his older sister and older brother went to Pyongyang to find their uncle. He said that he thought his sister was dead, but he was able to see her again thanks to the family reunions. "I never understood what it meant to be a war-torn family member until I heard my sister was alive [and] looking for me. I just didn't know where to start. I feel like I didn't get to even ask how she was doing. I thought my older sister was dead, so I burned pictures and everything else that reminded me of her. If I had known she was alive, I would've given her some baby pictures of us together, Kim said. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Jeon Ho-yeon, 82, at his house in Yangju. Jeon said that he came to Seoul to study in 1942, when he was 12 years old. He said that he thought that the two Koreas would reunify two or three years after they split, but he ended up waiting over 70 years to see his family again. Jeon said that he told his nephew at the reunion: Take good care of your father. I think the two Koreas will reunify soon, so let us meet again. REUTERS/Kim...more

Jeon Ho-yeon, 82, at his house in Yangju. Jeon said that he came to Seoul to study in 1942, when he was 12 years old. He said that he thought that the two Koreas would reunify two or three years after they split, but he ended up waiting over 70 years to see his family again. Jeon said that he told his nephew at the reunion: Take good care of your father. I think the two Koreas will reunify soon, so let us meet again. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Jang Choon, 82, at his house in Namyangju. Jang Choon said that he fought during the Korean War for the North Korean People's Army but then he became a prisoner of war in the South, and he chose to stay there. He said that his brothers and sisters received a note saying that he had died in the war. They were holding ancestral rituals for me, said Jang. Words cannot express how happy I was to meet them again in 60 years. Jang said...more

Jang Choon, 82, at his house in Namyangju. Jang Choon said that he fought during the Korean War for the North Korean People's Army but then he became a prisoner of war in the South, and he chose to stay there. He said that his brothers and sisters received a note saying that he had died in the war. They were holding ancestral rituals for me, said Jang. Words cannot express how happy I was to meet them again in 60 years. Jang said that the last words he shared with his family during the reunion were: Please stay healthy until the day we meet again. Let us meet again to talk more. Please stay alive for a long, long time. He said that then they sang a song titled Spring in My Hometown and cried before parting ways. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Kim Myeong-do, 92, at his house in Yongin. Kim said he used to be an elementary school teacher in North Korea but he came to Seoul when he was 21 to go to college. After the war broke out, he had to settle down in the South and was separated from his family. Kim said the last words he shared with his family at the reunion were: Someday the two Koreas will reunify. This [division] won't last forever. I don't know when but shouldn't...more

Kim Myeong-do, 92, at his house in Yongin. Kim said he used to be an elementary school teacher in North Korea but he came to Seoul when he was 21 to go to college. After the war broke out, he had to settle down in the South and was separated from his family. Kim said the last words he shared with his family at the reunion were: Someday the two Koreas will reunify. This [division] won't last forever. I don't know when but shouldn't the Koreans live together as one people? Isn't that the only hope we can look to as we live on? REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Kang Neung-hwan, 93, at his house in Seoul. Kang said that during the war he was separated from his family and his wife, just four months after they were married. He didn't know at the time that she was pregnant. Kang said he later heard that his wife and parents passed away in North Korea. Kang said: I had never seen my son, but the first time I saw him at the reunions I immediately knew who he was. I was heartbroken. I believe...more

Kang Neung-hwan, 93, at his house in Seoul. Kang said that during the war he was separated from his family and his wife, just four months after they were married. He didn't know at the time that she was pregnant. Kang said he later heard that his wife and parents passed away in North Korea. Kang said: I had never seen my son, but the first time I saw him at the reunions I immediately knew who he was. I was heartbroken. I believe that one day the two Koreas will reunify. My son, please stay healthy and wait for me until that day comes. Let us meet again soon. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Kim Sun-yeon, 80, at her house in Seoul. Kim said that during the war, when her family left their hometown to seek refuge, her big sister went missing and her mother died. At the recent family reunion she met her big sister's son. Kim said: The North Korean People's Army killed a lot of people during the war, so I thought my sister died as well. But last year when I registered for the family reunions, I found out that she was...more

Kim Sun-yeon, 80, at her house in Seoul. Kim said that during the war, when her family left their hometown to seek refuge, her big sister went missing and her mother died. At the recent family reunion she met her big sister's son. Kim said: The North Korean People's Army killed a lot of people during the war, so I thought my sister died as well. But last year when I registered for the family reunions, I found out that she was alive. If the reunions had taken place last year in September like they were supposed to, I could've met my sister. But the reunions were postponed to this February and my sister died in the past few months. I have so many things I want to tell her but I can't anymore. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Oh Dae-keun, 60, posing at his office in Seoul. Oh said: At the family reunions this year, I met my older brother who I was separated from even before I was born. My brother fought in the war as a volunteer when he was 17. He secretly joined the South Korean army without telling our family so naturally we all thought he was dead in the war when he disappeared. After the war was over, we missed him dearly and waited for him for...more

Oh Dae-keun, 60, posing at his office in Seoul. Oh said: At the family reunions this year, I met my older brother who I was separated from even before I was born. My brother fought in the war as a volunteer when he was 17. He secretly joined the South Korean army without telling our family so naturally we all thought he was dead in the war when he disappeared. After the war was over, we missed him dearly and waited for him for several years. We didn't even know he had gone over to North Korea. If we knew he had, we would've registered for the family reunions.Asked if he had any regrets, Oh said: I wish I could've met my brother a few years earlier since he isn't in good condition right now. He said he wrote down his brothers address, hoping to be able to send him letters. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Ma Soo-il, 83, posing at his house in Dongducheon. Ma said he left home when he was 20 to seek refuge and he ended up separated from his family. Ma said: I didn't know my younger sister was alive until I was selected for the family reunions. I only vaguely thought she'd be alive since she was five years younger than me. But when I was selected for the reunions, I found out that she passed away three years ago. There were families...more

Ma Soo-il, 83, posing at his house in Dongducheon. Ma said he left home when he was 20 to seek refuge and he ended up separated from his family. Ma said: I didn't know my younger sister was alive until I was selected for the family reunions. I only vaguely thought she'd be alive since she was five years younger than me. But when I was selected for the reunions, I found out that she passed away three years ago. There were families who met each other 10 years ago at the reunions, and how I wish I could've met my sister then. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Ma Soo-il, 83, holds an old picture of his younger sister who died in North Korea three years ago at his house in Dongducheon, March 9, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Ma Soo-il, 83, holds an old picture of his younger sister who died in North Korea three years ago at his house in Dongducheon, March 9, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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