At emotional Korean reunions, genuine talk often impossible

North Koreans arrive to meet their South Korean family members during a separated family reunion meeting at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Dozens of elderly South Koreans crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea on Monday for heart-wrenching meetings with relatives most haven't seen since they were separated by the turmoil of the Korean War. (Korea Pool Photo via AP)
North Koreans arrive to meet their South Korean family members during a separated family reunion meeting at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Dozens of elderly South Koreans crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea on Monday for heart-wrenching meetings with relatives most haven't seen since they were separated by the turmoil of the Korean War. (Lee Ji-eun/Yonhap via AP)
North Koreans stand to meet their South Korean family members during a separated family reunion meeting at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Dozens of elderly South Koreans crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea on Monday for heart-wrenching meetings with relatives most haven't seen since they were separated by the turmoil of the Korean War. (Lee Ji-eun/Yonhap via AP)
North Koreans arrive to meet their South Korean family members during a separated family reunion meeting at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Dozens of elderly South Koreans crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea on Monday for heart-wrenching meetings with relatives most haven't seen since they were separated by the turmoil of the Korean War. (Lee Ji-eun/Yonhap via AP)
North Koreans arrive to meet their South Korean family members during a separated family reunion meeting at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Dozens of elderly South Koreans crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea on Monday for heart-wrenching meetings with relatives most haven't seen since they were separated by the turmoil of the Korean War. (Korea Pool Photo via AP)
CAPTION ADDITION ADDS WOMAN ON RIGHT: South Korean Lee Keum-seom, 92, center, hugs her North Korean son Ri Sang Chol, 71, left, with Kim Ok Hui, daughter-in-law of Ri Sang Chol during the Separated Family Reunion Meeting at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. Dozens of elderly South Koreans crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea on Monday for heart-wrenching meetings with relatives most haven't seen since they were separated by the turmoil of the Korean War. (Lee Ji-eun/Yonhap via AP)
North Koreans arrive to meet their South Korean family members during a separated family reunion meeting at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Dozens of elderly South Koreans crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea on Monday for heart-wrenching meetings with relatives most haven't seen since they were separated by the turmoil of the Korean War. (Lee Ji-eun/Yonhap via AP)
North Korean women carry lunch boxes to rooms where South and North Korean families hold individual meetings at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. For the first time in three years, elderly North and South Korean relatives separated during the chaos of the 1950-53 Korean War are meeting at the North's scenic Diamond Mountain, where they'll embrace their loved ones after decades apart. (Korea Pool Photo via AP)
North Korean Ra Sun Ok, 58, left, talks with her South Korean relative Na Sung-phil, 51, during a separated family reunion meeting at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Dozens of elderly South Koreans crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea on Monday for heart-wrenching meetings with relatives most haven't seen since they were separated by the turmoil of the Korean War. (Korea Pool Photo via AP)
North Korean women carry lunch boxes to rooms where South and North Korean families hold individual meetings at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. For the first time in three years, elderly North and South Korean relatives separated during the chaos of the 1950-53 Korean War are meeting at the North's scenic Diamond Mountain, where they'll embrace their loved ones after decades apart. (Korea Pool Photo via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea — The reunions taking place this week between Korean families separated by the 1950-53 war produce heart-wrenching images of elderly relatives who are likely seeing each other for the last time before they die.

But they're also highly political and tightly controlled events where participants often find it difficult to have genuine conversations.

Much of the awkwardness centers on the defining fact of the Korean Peninsula: For decades it has been divided between the authoritarian North and the capitalist South.

Citizens from both nations, especially the elderly who remember the bitterness and bloodshed of the war, often wear their nationalism on their sleeves, and some South Koreans have complained that their relatives take every chance to score propaganda points for their authoritarian nation.

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