Starting Thursday, there will be a meeting of another 88 groups of relatives, 469 from the South and 128 from the North, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.
The brief family reunions, which began in 1985, can be a traumatic experience for the aging survivors, they say. And time is running out, with many of them aged 80 or older.
Around 132,600 individuals are listed as separated families as of end-July. Of the 57,000 survivors, 41.2 percent are in their 80s and 21.4 percent are in their 90s, according to government data.
The oldest South Korean participating in the latest gathering is 101 years of age.
“Most participants are elderly and many of them are suffering from hypertension, diabetes and have underlying medical conditions. Ahead of the reunions, we are thoroughly checking their health conditions so that they can attend the events as planned,” said physician Han Sang-jo.
Many of the family members brought gifts for their North Korean relatives. Socks, underwear, basic winter jackets, medicine, toothpastes and food are the most common items, with gifts deemed too extravagant unlikely to pass muster with Pyongyang authorities.
“I’ve prepared for him some household medicine including digester and headache pills, nutritional supplements as well as some daily necessaries,” Lee Soo-nam, a 76-year-old South Korean, told Reuters before meeting his older brother in the North separated by the war.
“He is very old so I really want to express my gratitude for being alive for a long time.”
Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Joyce Lee in SEOUL, Hyun Young Yi in SOKCHO, and Joint Press Corps; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Michael Perry.