Millions of people were separated during the 1950-53 conflict that sealed the division between the two Koreas. Most died without having a chance to see or hear from their families on the other side of the border, across which all civilian communication is banned.

The reunion programme began in earnest after a historic North South summit in 2000, and was initially an annual event. But strained cross border relations have allowed only one reunion in the past five years, with several being cancelled at the last moment by North Korea.
    
For the last reunion in February 2014, a computer was used to randomly select 500 candidates, after taking age and family background into account. That number was reduced to 200 after interviews and medical exams, and the two Koreas drew up a final list of 100 each after checking if relatives were still alive on the other side.
    
For the lucky ones who do take part, the reunions are hugely emotional almost traumatic affairs, with many of the elderly participants breaking down and sobbing as they cling to each other. The events typically last several days and the joy of the reunion is tempered by the pain of the inevitable and this time permanent separation at the end.

 

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