Mementos of Korea's divided families

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Choi Jung-sook, 84, at her house in Namyangju. Choi said that she thought her sister had died in the Korean War, but she was able to see her again at the reunion. "I took photos with a disposable camera, but it broke down or something and the film strips didn't develop. We took a lot of photos but I can't see any of them and that breaks my heart. I don't expect to be able to meet my sister soon. I just want to be able to write her...

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Heo Gyeong-ok, 87, at her house in Seoul. Heo said that during the Korean War, her husband left home to seek refuge in the South and she followed him with their one-year-old son, leaving her siblings behind. "I don't have a lot of memories with my two younger siblings because they were just 13 and 15 when I left home. I've been applying for the family reunions for 14 years and finally got my chance this year. I thought I wouldn't...

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Kim Chang-nam, 71, at his house in Seoul. Kim said that during the Korean War, his older sister and older brother went to Pyongyang to find their uncle. He said that he thought his sister was dead, but he was able to see her again thanks to the family reunions. "I never understood what it meant to be a war-torn family member until I heard my sister was alive [and] looking for me. I just didn't know where to start. I feel like I...

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Jeon Ho-yeon, 82, at his house in Yangju. Jeon said that he came to Seoul to study in 1942, when he was 12 years old. He said that he thought that the two Koreas would reunify two or three years after they split, but he ended up waiting over 70 years to see his family again. Jeon said that he told his nephew at the reunion: Take good care of your father. I think the two Koreas will reunify soon, so let us meet again. REUTERS/Kim...

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Jang Choon, 82, at his house in Namyangju. Jang Choon said that he fought during the Korean War for the North Korean People's Army but then he became a prisoner of war in the South, and he chose to stay there. He said that his brothers and sisters received a note saying that he had died in the war. They were holding ancestral rituals for me, said Jang. Words cannot express how happy I was to meet them again in 60 years. Jang said...

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Kim Myeong-do, 92, at his house in Yongin. Kim said he used to be an elementary school teacher in North Korea but he came to Seoul when he was 21 to go to college. After the war broke out, he had to settle down in the South and was separated from his family. Kim said the last words he shared with his family at the reunion were: Someday the two Koreas will reunify. This [division] won't last forever. I don't know when but shouldn't...

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Kang Neung-hwan, 93, at his house in Seoul. Kang said that during the war he was separated from his family and his wife, just four months after they were married. He didn't know at the time that she was pregnant. Kang said he later heard that his wife and parents passed away in North Korea. Kang said: I had never seen my son, but the first time I saw him at the reunions I immediately knew who he was. I was heartbroken. I believe...

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Kim Sun-yeon, 80, at her house in Seoul. Kim said that during the war, when her family left their hometown to seek refuge, her big sister went missing and her mother died. At the recent family reunion she met her big sister's son. Kim said: The North Korean People's Army killed a lot of people during the war, so I thought my sister died as well. But last year when I registered for the family reunions, I found out that she was...

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Oh Dae-keun, 60, posing at his office in Seoul. Oh said: At the family reunions this year, I met my older brother who I was separated from even before I was born. My brother fought in the war as a volunteer when he was 17. He secretly joined the South Korean army without telling our family so naturally we all thought he was dead in the war when he disappeared. After the war was over, we missed him dearly and waited for him for...

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Ma Soo-il, 83, posing at his house in Dongducheon. Ma said he left home when he was 20 to seek refuge and he ended up separated from his family. Ma said: I didn't know my younger sister was alive until I was selected for the family reunions. I only vaguely thought she'd be alive since she was five years younger than me. But when I was selected for the reunions, I found out that she passed away three years ago. There were families...

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Ma Soo-il, 83, holds an old picture of his younger sister who died in North Korea three years ago at his house in Dongducheon, March 9, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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