SEOUL: North and South Korean families divided since the Korean War said a tearful final farewell Monday, wrapping up a rare reunion that was clouded at the last by a maritime border spat.
The fact that it went ahead as scheduled had encouraged those who hoped the deal might usher in a period of detente, but the inherent volatility of North-South ties was underlined on Saturday by an incident on their disputed maritime border.
It was a minor spat, with a South Korean naval vessel firing warning shots at a North Korean patrol boat that had strayed across the border and promptly returned.
But Pyongyang insisted it was a dangerous and deliberate provocation by the South that could “totally derail” the August agreement.
After three emotionally fraught days seeking to redress more than 60 years of separation, the reunion ended on the most traumatic note of all — a goodbye that for most of the elderly participants marked the last time they will ever see each other.
For some it was simply too overwhelming, and Han Um-Jon’s last sight of her 86-year-old South Korean husband was on a stretcher as he was placed into an ambulance to take him back to Seoul.
Others clung desperately to the hands of their South Korean relatives through the windows of buses preparing to leave the North Korean mountain resort where the gathering had been held.
Around 1,000 relatives from both sides took part in the weeklong event — a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands wait-listed for a reunion slot.
Divided into two rounds, it was only the second gathering in five years for those torn apart by the 1950-53 Korean conflict.