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Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
A woman, who is selected as a participant for a reunion, reacts at a hotel used as a waiting place in Sokcho, South Korea.

Photos: Preparing to reunite with long-lost family members from North Korea

By Jake Flanagin

In the West, most stories we hear about border crossings between North and South Korea center on nail-biting feats of escape. But rarely do we hear about South Koreans (willingly) crossing the border northward.

On Monday, Oct. 19, nearly 400 South Koreans packed into buses and ambulances to cross the heavily fortified border with North Korea. They were bound to be reunited, for a heart-wrenchingly brief time, with 96 long-lost family members, all of whom had been caught on the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) when the Korean War ended in 1953.

Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
Park Jong-hwan, 80, who is selected as a participant for a reunion, poses for a photograph with an old picture at a hotel used as a waiting place in Sokcho, South Korea.

Kim Hong-Ji, a photographer for Reuters, was on hand to capture the journey. Reunions took place in a large ball room at a North Korean resort, under the watchful eye of DPRK officials. For many of the elderly, this will probably be their last opportunity to see separated spouses, parents, and cousins.

Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
A man, one of 396 South Koreans selected to reunite with family in the North, waits to board a bus bound for a wait station south of the DMZ in Goseong, South Korea.
Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
Buses transporting South Korean participants for a reunion travel on the road leading to North Korea’s Mount Kumgang resort.
Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
South Korean participants for a reunion arrive at the South’s CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine), just south of the DMZ in Goseong, South Korea.
Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
Lee Gyu-il, 84, who is selected as a participant for a reunion, rests as he looks at old pictures at a hotel used as a waiting place in Sokcho, South Korea.
Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
Park Jong-hwan, 80, who is selected as a participant for a reunion, poses for a photograph with an old picture at a hotel used as a waiting place in Sokcho, South Korea.
Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
A woman, who is selected as a participant for a reunion, waits at a hotel used as a waiting place in Sokcho, South Korea.
Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
Kim Woo-jong, 87, who has been selected as one of 96 participants of reunion, poses for photographs during an interview with Reuters in Seoul, South Korea.
Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
Ahn Yoon-joon, 86, who has been selected as one of 96 participants for the reunion, poses for photographs during an interview with Reuters in Seongnam, South Korea.
Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
South Korean participants for a reunion check old pictures at a hotel used as a waiting place in Sokcho, South Korea.