An elderly South Korean woman gazed in bewilderment at the North Korean man in the dark suit seated before her.
"Mother, it is me, your son," he told her. She said nothing. "You remember this scar on my eye," he continued, pointing to it. "You tried so hard to cure it. Please touch it and remember."
For this divided Korean family and 34 others, more than three decades of waiting and wondering ended today. They were brought together again in emotional reunions in Seoul and the North's capital, Pyongyang, in the first family visits between North and South since the Korean War.
Sponsored by the two sides' Red Cross societies, the visits were the most tangible and dramatic results of a detente that has been unfolding slowly for the past year on the militarily tense Korean peninsula.
About 10 million of Korea's 60 million people have immediate family across the Demilitarized Zone, which separates the two intensely hostile societies. Until today, the isolation was all but total -- no letters, phone calls, visits or news of any kind could be exchanged.
Fifteen families were reunited for two hours in Seoul in a ballroom in the Sheraton Walker Hill Hotel. Seated at round tables, parents and children, brothers and sisters clasped hands and tried to catch up on more than 30 years of family events.
"It has been so painful. I have missed you for so long," said Oh Sok Hee, a North Korean mining ministry official, in a voice cracking with emotion. With him sat his 76-year-old father, Oh Chang Keun. They had last seen one another during the 1950-53 Korean War in the town of Yongin, 30 miles south of Seoul.
"It's so good to be alive to see you," the elder Oh said. His son inquired about his mother and was told that she was ill and unable to come.
At another table, a 61-year-old Seoul woman, Lee Ki Suk, embraced her brother, 58-year-old Pyongyang factory manager Lee Young Jae, and gave him the news that their mother had died 17 years ago.
The visitors were part of a 151-member North Korean delegation that arrived in Seoul Friday while 151 South Koreans went to Pyongyang. Both delegations will return home on Monday.
Fifty of the North Koreans were former residents of Seoul. South Korean officials said that living relatives of only 30 of them could be located. Of those, 15 were reunited today. The other 15 are expected to see their families on Sunday.
This afternoon, the 50 members of a North Korean folk art troupe that was part of the delegation gave a 90-minute performance in Seoul's national theater. An audience of about 1,500, mostly officials and other dignitaries, responded with polite applause to their renditions of fan and sword dancing and songs.
In Pyongyang, a southern art troupe performed, and 20 southerners met with family members at the city's Koryo Hotel today. A report from the North's official news agency, monitored in Tokyo, said, "The place of reunion is overflowing with warm, kindred sentiments."
One of the southerners is Daniel Tji, a Catholic archbishop and prominent human rights campaigner who is a former Pyongyang resident. There he met and embraced a sister and for the first time met her husband and two sons.
In the Seoul meetings, some of the North Koreans wore lapel buttons bearing the image of their president, Kim Il Sung, a standard adornment in their society. But generally the two sides steered clear of overt politicking.
Discord was never far below the surface, however. The two sides argued in the morning over a place for the meetings. The South called for an initial public session, with private meetings in the visitors' rooms to follow. The North wanted them in closed rooms from the start but relented.
In places, the reunion underlined the political differences between the two societies. In one incident reported from Pyongyang, two brothers met. The southerner thanked God; the northerner thanked Kim Il Sung.
There is no guarantee that the relatives will ever see each other again or be able to communicate. Red Cross negotiators have yet to reach agreement for further visits or for the reopening of mail and telephone service.
More than 1 million troops face each other across the Demilitarized Zone. Despite this tension, the two sides are conducting a dialogue that encompasses humanitarian, economic and sports cooperation, as well as talks among legislators.