SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Lim Sung-joo cried and hugged his 80-year-old mother on Saturday as the two were finally reunited after she disappeared during the 1950-53 Korean War.
Lim, 57, and his brother, Lim Suk-joo, 62, were among 453 South Koreans who had tearful reunions Saturday with relatives in the North they have not seen since the war. The three-day reunions are the eighth since the two countries held an unprecedented summit in 2000.
"I remember you crying for more milk," his mother, Park Ok-soon, said, holding Sung-joo's hands, according to pool reports by South Korean journalists. No foreign media were invited to cover the reunions.
The overwhelmed son shouted: "Look everyone! I am hugging my mother for the first time in 50 years!"
Lim's mother disappeared during a trip in 1951, leaving her two sons, then 5 and 10, with their South Korean grandparents.
Before leaving for the reunions, Lim said he didn't remember his mother's face, "except the pretty face I see in the photographs I have of her."
"That was the face I had thought I would keep to myself for the rest of my life," he said.
Earlier Saturday, the South Koreans arrived at the Diamond Mountain resort on the east coast of North Korea — the site of reunions — traveling by bus along a dirt road built across the heavily armed Demilitarized Zone separating the two countries.
They met 100 North Korean relatives. They planned to return home Monday.
Since the 2000 summit, the Koreas have allowed thousands of family members separated by the war to reunite temporarily.
The countries were divided in 1945, and the Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. There is no cross-border mail, telephone service or other communications between ordinary citizens.
The reunions have been overshadowed by the international standoff over North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons programs. The United States and its allies are urging the North to give up its atomic ambitions.