Korean siblings see each other for the first time in 60 years


South Korean Park Yang-Gon (L) meets with his North Korean brother Park Yang-Soo during a family reunion after being separated for 60 years on February 20, 2014 in Mount Kumgang, North Korea. The program, which allows reunions of family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean war, is a result of recent agreement between Koreas which had been suspended since 2010.



Heads bowed, foreheads pressed together, South Korean Park Yang-gon embraced his North Korean brother Park Yan-soo as cameras flashed. Smiling women in colorful traditional hanbok dresses hugged. Relatives exchanged gifts and photographs of family members.

Hundreds of North and South Korean relatives, like the Park brothers, are seeing each other for the first time after decades of separation.

Buses are prepared to take a group of South Koreans to joint North and South family reunions prior to departing for the North Korean border, in the eastern port city of Sokcho early on February 20, 2014.

The wave of reunions taking place in North Korea’s Kumgang Mountain resort come during a rare period of cooperation between the rival nations, which have been at a perpetual standoff since the Korean War ended in a ceasefire. The meetings, which were suspended in 2010 after the North’s shelling of a South Korean border island, are a stark reminder that the tensions between both countries divide a single people.

For most of North and South Koreans, there is no direct line of communication. The program offers the only legal way for families separated by the heavily armed border between North and South to see one another.

Participants of North and South family reunions sit aboard a bus prior to departing.

The lucky few, who were brought together for brief three-day meetings, are just a handful of the millions of loved ones that were separated after the war. The BBC reports that at least 72,000 South Koreans are on a waiting list to see their family in reunion events like these. The selection process in the South is based on a computerized lottery system, which chooses people hoping for reunions. Time is running out for many of them, who are over 80. 

Participants of North and South family reunions sit aboard a bus prior to departing.

While the reinstatement of the program marks a small step towards improved relations between the two Koreas, analysts say it is a ploy by impoverished North Korea to garner aid and foreign investment, the Associated Press reports. The North sent mixed signals by arranging the reunions, calling for better ties with the South, and then threatening to scrap them in protest against Seoul’s annual military drills with the United States. Secretary of State John Kerry rejected North Korea’s demand to delay the joint military exercise.

All photos by Ed Jones, AFP/Getty Images.