North and South Koreans meet after 60 years apart

Hundreds of North and South Koreans have taken part in an emotional reunion with relatives for the first time in 60 years after being separated by the Korean War.

Embracing each other and shedding tears, the divided family members met at a North Korean holiday resort. But the meetings were short-lived as after a few hours and sharing a meal together the relatives returned to their own countries.

South Korea holds a lottery for the opportunity to legally meet with relatives in the North - at present about 72,000 South Koreans are on a waiting list.

At today's reunion, relatives took the opportunity to ask about those they hadn't seen in years.

91 year-old South Korean Ryu Young-shik asked his long-lost sister "What about our brother, Ryu Hong Ryol?" To which his sister replied simply: "He is missing."

Jang Choon poses for photographs with a picture of his youngest brother Jang Ha-choon who he met at the reunion. Credit: Reuters

Among the South Koreans at the reunion was Jang Choon, an 81-year-old in a wheelchair who was dressed in the light brown suit and maroon tie he had bought for the reunion with a brother and a sister living in the North.

"My youngest brother Ha-choon had not even started school when I last saw him," said Jang, the eldest of four siblings, one of whom has died. "But now he's an old man like me."

About 500 South Koreans and an estimated 260 North Koreans took part in today's meetings. More will do the same, with further reunions taking place until February 25.

The reunions used to be held annually, but have not taken place since 2010 as tensions between the two Koreas spiralled after the South said the North sank one of its naval vessels. In later months, the North shelled a South Korean island and Pyongyang threatened nuclear attacks last year.

The rival nations struck a deal last week to go ahead with brief meetings of war-divided families, but there had been much doubt over whether Pyongyang would back out at the last minute.

North Korea is pushing for improved ties with South Korea, and has toned down harsh rhetoric.

96 year-old South Korean Kim Sung-yoon (wearing blue), meets her North Korean relative. Credit: APTN

For many of those making the trip to Mt. Kumgang, it will be the last chance to meet separated loved ones.

Of the 128,000 people registered in South Korea as coming from families that were torn apart by the Korean War, 44 per cent have already died and more than 80 per cent of survivors are over 70, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations.

South Korean Kim Sung-yoon (right), meets her North Korean relative. Credit: APTN

There have been 18 family reunions since the first in 1985 and a total of 18,143 South and North Korean brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers have met.

The events have never been regular and the two Koreas have squabbled over the details of the events, like deciding on the venue. After the first four, in which families travelled back and forth between Seoul and Pyongyang, North Korea has insisted on hosting the events on its soil.

91 year-old South Korean Ryu Young-sik (left) embracing his sister from North Korea Credit: APTN

A second group of about 360 South Koreans plan to visit the mountain on Sunday to meet some 88 elderly North Koreans.