SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- One hundred North Koreans embraced and wept with Southern relatives whom they had not seen for half a century, in an outpouring of joy and distress televised live Tuesday in South Korea.
The elderly North Koreans, who arrived from Pyongyang, capital of the reclusive, Stalinist North, were ushered into a giant hall at a Seoul convention center where relatives were waiting. Cries and moans filled the room.
"Mother, be calm. Your son is here," a 68-year-old man told his 95-year-old mother, who was so overcome with emotion that a nurse rushed to her side to take her blood pressure.
Another distraught man knelt on the floor and repeatedly bowed to his father, who sat in a wheelchair, too weak to respond.
There were shouts of "My sweetheart!" and "My brother!"
Men and women clutched each other, weeping and wailing. They consoled each other with pats on the back and offered handkerchiefs to wipe away tears. Some were quieter, sad and pensive.
When emotions cooled, the relatives exchanged family stories and looked at old photo albums.
The reunions offered a window on the pain of separation suffered by millions of Koreans on both sides of a sealed, militarized border that is the legacy of decades of hostility.
Family reunions are one of the most emotional issues that have defined the long-running standoff between the two Koreas, which were once devoted to each other's downfall but have made great strides toward reconciliation in recent months.
When the North Koreans arrived earlier Tuesday, their plane picked up 100 South Koreans for a similar exchange in the North.
"I hope these reunions will not stop as a one-time event and will continue so that the day will come when dispersed family members in the two sides can go and come freely," the South Korean delegation chief, Chang Chung-shik, said on arrival in Pyongyang.
Many of the North Koreans visiting Seoul were men in dark suits wearing pins with the image of their revered late leader, Kim Il Sung. The group included an 84-year-old woman in a traditional Korean gown and using a cane who came to meet her elder sister and a niece.
Arriving in Seoul, the head of the North Korean delegation, 78-year-old Yoo Mi Young, said more reunions would follow.
"I hope this development will help break down the wall of confrontation and division," said Yoo, who defected to North Korea from the South in 1986 along with her husband, former South Korean Foreign Minister Choi Duk Shin. He died in 1989.
The 100 North Koreans were accompanied by 31 officials and 20 journalists. One relative paid tribute to Kim Il Sung's son and successor, Kim Jong Il.
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