Close to 100 South Korean families made the trip to North Korea’s Mount Kumgang resort today (Aug. 20) to reunite with their loved ones left on the other side of the border after the Korean War, which ended in 1953.
The reunions are the first since 2015 and the 21st ever, and are part of the agreement signed between the leaders of North and South Korea when they met at a summit at the Demilitarized Zone in April.
Those chosen for the three-day trip were incredibly lucky—some 57,000 people in South Korea with family in the North who registered to take part were not picked, and more than half of the 132,600 people in South Korea who have applied for family reunions have died. Even as relations between Pyongyang and Seoul have rapidly thawed this year, the detente did not come quickly enough for most Koreans separated from their families—the majority of those registered to take part in the lottery for these visits are now over 80, and, as the AP reports, in the past some people had fallen too ill to travel or died just days before their scheduled reunions.
After the short reunion, the families will be divided once more, and almost certain never to see each other again. The reunions, played out in tearful images broadcast across newspapers and television screens over the years, serve as a stark reminder that more than six decades after the end of the Korean War, many are still paying the human price for that conflict. But what keeps the families apart, says Sokeel Park, South Korea director for Liberty in North Korea, is Pyongyang’s “systematic isolation” of its people from the rest of the world.
Below are images of the emotional reunions between parents and children, brothers and sisters, and other relatives after so many years apart.