CRI在线收听:S. Korean Families Gather for Reunion with Relatives in DPRK

Kim Se-rin, an 84-year-old living in South Korea, has expressed excitement about his upcoming reunion with a sister he hasn't seen in six decades.

"I will first hug her and tell her that I thank her for living this long. I am eighty-six and she is eighty-one (in Korean age). I will ask her when our father and mother passed away, and when did our sister and brother die."

Over the years, much of Kim's family in the North has passed away, leaving only one younger sister, 80-year-old Kim Yong-suk, and the son of his brother.

Kim, a retired Seoul City official, used to teach Korean at a middle school in North Korea before the Korean War broke out in June 1950.

He fled the North On Dec 4, 1950.

Kim's escape was made in such a hurried manner that he couldn't even tell his family members about his departure.

But he never thought that would mean a permanent separation from his parents, two younger sisters and younger brother.

Kim knows this month's reunions may be the only chance he ever gets to visit with his surviving family members, because more than 70-thousand elderly South Koreans are still waiting for the rare chance to attend family reunions.

The emotional reunions haven't been held since late 2010.

This month's reunions were arranged as North Korea pushed for better ties with South Korea.

Park Soo-jin, deputy spokeswoman of the South Korean Unification Ministry, said in Seoul on Wednesday that the reunion was ready to take place on Thursday as scheduled.

"There has been a lot of snow (at the Diamond Mountain Resort in North Korea), but we have been clearing the snow and are doing our best so that there are no problems with the reunion of separated families. Currently, it does not appear that there will be any hindrance to the reunion event."

Still, there's some wariness in Seoul that Pyongyang might back out again.

Millions of Korean family members have been completely separated along the world's most heavily-fortified border, with both governments banning their citizens from visiting each other and even exchanging letters, phone calls and emails.

During a previous period of inter-Korean rapprochement, about 22-thousand Koreans have had brief reunions, 18-thousand in person and the others by video, but no one has been allowed to meet their relatives again.

Most of the people applying for computerised lottery chances to attend the reunions are in their 70s and older, and about 45 percent of roughly 129-thousand applicants in South Korea have died.

For CRI, I am Su Yi.