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Separated families meet again on 2nd day in freer, comfy atmosphere

 Dozens of South Koreans met their long-separated North Korean families again on the second day of their reunions Tuesday in a relatively freer and comfy atmosphere.

In this photo taken by the Joint Press Corps, Lee Keum-seom, 92, poses with her son, Sang-chol, for pictures at their second group reunion at Mount Kumgang on Aug. 21, 2018. (Yonhap)

In this photo taken by the Joint Press Corps, Lee Keum-seom, 92, poses with her son, Sang-chol, for pictures at their second group reunion at Mount Kumgang on Aug. 21, 2018. (Yonhap)

On Monday, 89 elderly South Koreans and 185 North Korean people saw each other in a group reunion at this scenic resort on the North's east coast for the first time since they were mostly separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The families met again from about 10 a.m. Tuesday, this time in their hotel rooms. The North Koreans came to the rooms where their South Korean relatives were staying for the private meetings.

Many were clad in Korean traditional clothes or hanbok. Some brought gifts such as ginseng and cosmetics prepared for those who traveled all the way here to reunite with their families.

They also ate lunch together in the rooms right after the morning meeting. This marked the first time ever that separated families have had such private lunch time together during family reunion events.

Lee Young-boo, 76, was satisfied with the freer setting than a day earlier.

"It felt much freer and better," said Lee, who came here to meet his two nephews and one niece living in the North. "The food also tasted great."

   The families held another group meeting in the afternoon.

The meeting was held in a more comfortable atmosphere as many felt freer in expressing their excitement and feelings about their loved ones, a stark contrast with the previous day when many appeared quite nervous during their first-ever encounters.

"My sister is pretty, isn't she?" Kim Byeong-oh, 88, said, holding the hands of his 81-year-old sister, Sun-ok.

Kim Hye-ja, 75, hugged her North Korean sister, Eun-ha, saying repeatedly, "I love you."

   "I feel like I am having a dream even now," she said. "I want to stay with you. I don't want to let you go again."

   Lee Keum-seom, 92, who burst into tears when she saw her now 71-year-old son, Sang-chol, for the first time in decades a day earlier, couldn't control her emotions when they met again. The two embraced each other for a while.

On Wednesday, the last day of their three-day stay here, they will have one last chance to meet as a group, followed by a group lunch before returning to the South.

The two Koreas agreed to allow the families to meet one hour earlier than scheduled.

They were supposed to begin the last-day reunion at 11 a.m. but the South proposed that it start at 10 a.m. and the North accepted it. The meetings are to finish at 1 p.m. as planned.

As time is running out, however, some voiced frustration that this event would be the first but also the last chance for them to see their families in the North.

"I feel bad to think about parting again after meeting them for the first time in about sixty years," said Park Ki-dong, who was reunited with his sister and brother here.

Park's sister Seon-nyeo, 74, who accompanied him on the trip here, shared the frustration, saying that there is no guarantee that they will meet again.

"Peace should come fast, but the wall is too high," she lamented.

The family reunion event is the first of its kind since October 2015. The two Koreas have held 20 rounds of face-to-face family reunions since the first-ever inter-Korean summit in 2000.

Still, a very small fraction of the people seeking to see their loved ones before they die have realized the dream. Some 57,000 South Koreans, mostly in their 70s or older, are waiting to be reunited with family members who might be living in the North.

The latest family reunions come amid a thaw in inter-Korean relations.

It is a follow-up to an agreement their leaders reached in an April summit to address humanitarian challenges arising from decades of division caused by the Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Following the three-day reunion that will end Wednesday, 83 North Koreans will also reunite with their relatives found to be alive in the South from Friday through Sunday. A second batch of over 300 South Koreans will travel to the venue later this week for the event. Source from the Yonhap.

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