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"The North's coach is older than I am and he is also very understanding and helping me a lot".

The elder Cha reminded his nephew that it was North Korea's founder, Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the current leader, who triggered the war by ordering a sneak attack on the South in June 1950. Most have had no word on whether their relatives are still alive because they are not allowed to visit each other across the border or even exchange letters, phone calls or email.

"I can say definitively that it's a sufficient national security concern about Chinese meddling, Iranian meddling, and North Korean meddling that we're taking steps to prevent it", Bolton said in an interview on ABC that aired August 19. Before this week's reunions, about 23 500 Koreans attended reunions, some 19 800 in person and the others by video, since 2000. One 82-year-old from South Korea was reunited with her two sisters, who have both spent their lives in the North.

The joint teams come after North and South Koreans combined in women's ice hockey at this year's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, an event that set the stage for a surge of rapprochement.

The North sees the reunions as a crucial tool to win concessions from the South, but it has rejected the South's demands to increase the number of reunions and the people participating in them.

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The national security adviser also underscored the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Deal, better known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, and the importance to get allies onboard with sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The North uses the reunions for propaganda purposes, carefully choosing participants based on loyalty and instructing them to praise the authoritarian leadership during the meetings. Among them, almost 86 percent of the group are 70 or older. The North Koreans came to the rooms where their South Korean relatives were staying for the private meetings.

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"They praised the leadership of Kim Jong Un and life in North Korea so frequently that any genuine conversation became impossible", Hong said.

Koreans are taught from a young age to respect their elders, a cultural norm that has smoothed the path since athletes from the North and South were thrown together after just a few weeks' training. She could only say "Ah" and "When I fled." before choking up with tears.

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