HUFFINGTON POST

'Let’s Meet Again In The Afterlife': Korean Families Say Goodbye Again

After a brief reunion in North Korea this week, war-torn families have been separated once more.
After being apart for 65 years, 83-year-old Oh In Se reaches for his wife, Lee Soon-kyu, during the Separated Famil
After being apart for 65 years, 83-year-old Oh In Se reaches for his wife, Lee Soon-kyu, during the Separated Family Reunion Meeting at Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Dozens of families were reunited this week at the rare event.

"Let’s meet again in the afterlife."

Those were the emotion-filled words uttered by Oh In Se, an 83-year-old North Korean man, as he said goodbye to his wife on Thursday.

"Be healthy," his beloved replied. "Live long."

The couple had been separated for 65 years before a brief reunion in North Korea this week. They will likely never see each other again.

Oh’s wife, 85-year-old Lee Soon-kyu, is one of about 400 South Koreans who crossed the border into North Korea on Tuesday to meet with family members they haven’t seen since the 1950-53 Korean War. Just two days later, the families were forced separate once again.

"Please raise our son well and enlarge your mind," Oh told his wife as bid her farewell, stretching his arm out of the bus window to grasp her hand. 

Oh In Se grasps his wife's hands from a bus as he says goodbye to her on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015.
Oh In Se grasps his wife's hands from a bus as he says goodbye to her on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015.

According to The Associated Press, Oh was 17 and Lee was 19 when they married in 1949. Just seven months later, they were separated during the war. Lee was reportedly pregnant with their son, Jang-kyun, at the time.

During their meeting, Oh told his wife that he's never stopped thinking about her. Lee, who never remarried, shared a similar sentiment with her husband. 

"I can't tell how much I missed you," she said, according to the Sydney Morning-Herald. "I have wept so much thinking of us that there are no tears left in me."

Countless other emotional moments and heartbreaking stories occurred during this week’s reunion event, which was organized by the Red Cross.

In one poignant photograph, seen above, 68-year-old Lee Jeong-suk is pictured wiping the tears of her North Korean father. According to AP, the 88-year-old dad was speechless as he gazed at his daughter. "He wept in silence as his daughter touched his face," the news outlet said.

The Guardian shared the story of another couple who was reunited after being separated for 65 years. Lee Ok-yeon, an 88-year-old South Korean woman, has reportedly been living in the same house her husband built decades ago. Her grandson said that Lee had "asked whether it was a dream or a reality" when she was told she would get to see her husband again.

North Korean Son Kwon Geun, center, weeps with his South Korean relatives as he says goodbye to them on Thursday, Oct. 2
North Korean Son Kwon Geun, center, weeps with his South Korean relatives as he says goodbye to them on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. 
South Korean Kim Bock-rack, right, meets with his North Korean sister Kim Jeon Soon on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. 
South Korean Kim Bock-rack, right, meets with his North Korean sister Kim Jeon Soon on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. 

Reunions between North and South Korean family members are extremely rare. Only 20 such meetings have been organized since 2000, and only a fraction of people who apply to attend them actually get the chance. 

To date, 130,000 people have reportedly applied to participate in the reunions. About half, however, have already died. 

Such meetings represent a once-in-a-lifetime chance for people to connect with their loved ones from across the border. Phone and mail services between the two Koreas remain forbidden.

 

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