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A Mother And Her Son Met Each Other In Person For The First Time In 68 Years

The reunion is bittersweet — it's also likely to be the last time they will ever see each other.

Posted on August 20, 2018, at 9:06 a.m. ET

Lee Keum-seom meets her son, Ri Sang Chol, for the first time in almost 70 years.
Pool / Getty Images

Lee Keum-seom meets her son, Ri Sang Chol, for the first time in almost 70 years.

The last time Lee Keum-seom saw her son, Ri Sang Chol, he was 4, as they fled the chaos of the end of the Korean War.

While Lee and her daughter made it into South Korea, Ri and his father were stuck in North Korea.

Korea Pool / AFP / Getty Images

Lee and her son, now 92 and 71, were finally reunited Monday in North Korea, ending 68 years without seeing each other with a hug, and the knowledge that they had mere hours together to make up for a lifetime apart.

“How many children do you have? Do you have a son?” Lee asked her son, according to the Associated Press, while Ri handed his mother a photo of her late husband, saying, "Mother, this is how my father looked."

South Korean Han Shin-Ja, 99 (right), meets with her North Korean daughters Kim Kyung-Sil, 72, and Kim Kyung-Young, 71.
Pool / Getty Images

South Korean Han Shin-Ja, 99 (right), meets with her North Korean daughters Kim Kyung-Sil, 72, and Kim Kyung-Young, 71.

They were one of dozens of families seeing one another in person for the first time since fighting ended in the Korean War in 1953, and the peninsula was divided.

Handout / Reuters

The fighting only stopped via an armistice, and a full peace treaty has never been signed, meaning the two countries technically remain at war.

Handout / Reuters

Over the next few days, 89 South Koreans and 83 North Koreans are meeting at North Korea's Mount Kumgang resort, in supervised reunions that in total will amount to only several hours.

North Korean Cho Soon-Do, 89 (left) meets with her South Korean sister, Cho Hae-Do, 86 (right), and brother, Cho Do-Jae, 75 (center).
Pool / Getty Images

North Korean Cho Soon-Do, 89 (left) meets with her South Korean sister, Cho Hae-Do, 86 (right), and brother, Cho Do-Jae, 75 (center).

North and South Korea have held around 20 of these reunion meetings since 2000, but this is the first since 2015 — a result of the historic meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in earlier this year.

South Korean Kim Jong-tae, 81 (left), meets his North Korean nephew, Kim Hak Soo, 56 (right).
Korea Pool / AFP / Getty Images

South Korean Kim Jong-tae, 81 (left), meets his North Korean nephew, Kim Hak Soo, 56 (right).

Both countries had initially chosen 100 people each via lottery, out of many thousands who applied in South Korea, but some dropped out when they realized the family members they hoped to meet had already died, while others were too frail to make the trip north.

오늘 금강산에서 오랜만에 이산가족이 만납니다. 70년 넘게 생사조차 모르던 170여 가족이 다시 만날 수 있게 되었습니다. 이제 더 담대하게 이산가족 문제 해결을 위해 노력해야 합니다. 정기적인 상봉행사, 생사확인, 화상상봉, 서신교환, 고향방문과 이산가족 면회소를 상시 운영해야 합니다.

Writing on Twitter, President Moon said his administration would work harder to resolve the issue of separated families, including regular reunions.

Kim Young-seok, 78 (left), has his photo taken with North Korean relatives.
Korea Pool / AFP / Getty Images

Kim Young-seok, 78 (left), has his photo taken with North Korean relatives.

The majority of those taking part in the reunions from the South Korean side are mostly in their seventies and eighties, with the oldest person involved a 101-year-old woman.

So for many, this marks the last time they will see their relatives again.

Handout / Reuters

Speaking about her hopes for the trip before setting out, Lee, in a video released by South Korea's Blue House, said of her son, "He won't recognize me because he was only 4. We would only know each other by our names.

"When I meet him again I think I would like to ask, 'Where were you, how were you, who did you end up living with?'

"'You've done well growing up on your own — you must have missed your mom.'"

Pool / Getty Images



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