North and South Korean families say tearful goodbyes on final day of rare reunions

Two rounds of emotional reunions came to an end on Tuesday

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The Independent Online

Tearful family members separated by the war between North and South Korea said their final goodbyes on Tuesday after the final rounds of rare reunions ended.

Dozens of elderly relatives who have been separated from each other for six decades met in an emotional three-day reunion during a period of eased relations between the two countries.

Both sides prohibit ordinary citizens from visiting each other and even exchanging phone calls, letters and emails. About 22,000 Koreans have had brief reconciliations - 18,000 in person and the rest by video link - during a previous era of rapprochement.

Two rounds of reunions began last week and involved approximately 750 people from both North and South Korea who had not seen each other since the three-year Korean War ended in 1953.

The reunions were split into two parts. Thursday's reunions finished on Saturday and the second group of about 360 South Koreans met with 88 elderly North Koreans from Sunday to Tuesday.

The reunions are the first since 2010, when tensions between the two sides spiralled following threats of nuclear strikes against Seoul and Washington from Pyongyang.

Last week, North Korea decided to honour its earlier promise to allow the reunions after South Korea agreed to Pyongyang's proposal that the rivals stop insulting each other.

South Korea uses a computerised lottery system to pick participants. Because the reunions are held so infrequently, many of those who have applied for a chance to participate have died before getting to attend. It is not known how North Korea selects its citizens.

South Korea has long called for an increase in the number of people who can participate in the reunions.

Additional reporting by Associated Press