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Many in Seoul are also wary after last year’s springtime threats from North Korea of nuclear strikes against Seoul and Washington. North Korea in recent years has conducted nuclear and missile tests, and is blamed for attacks in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans.

Last week, North Korea decided to honor its earlier promise to allow the reunions after South Korea agreed to North Korea’s proposal that the rivals stop insulting each other. In South Korea, there are still worries that the reunions might be disrupted because of the impending military drills.

The reunions are broken into two parts. Thursday’s reunions end Saturday. A second group of about 360 South Koreans plans to visit the mountain resort Sunday to meet with 88 elderly North Koreans. Those reunions end Tuesday.

Both governments ban their citizens from visiting each other or even exchanging letters, phone calls and emails.

In Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, many people had heard of the plan to hold the reunions on the television news or other state media. “I desperately hope for reunification. We are of the same blood and getting these families together will help national reunification,” said 63-year old Jang Hye Sun.

The two Koreas have been in a near-constant standoff since an armistice ended the Korean War. It hasn’t been replaced with a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula still technically in a state of war. About 28,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to help deter aggression from North Korea.

In 2000, South Korea created a computerized lottery system for South Koreans hoping for reunions, and since then nearly 130,000 people, most in their 70s or older, have entered. Only about 70,000 are still alive. It’s not known how North Korea selects people who attend reunions. South Korean media reported that the North usually chooses those loyal to its authoritarian government.

According to pool reports, it was only through the application process that 93-year-old Kang Neung-hwan even realized that he had left a son behind when he left North Korea during the war. Kang Jong Kuk, now 64, had been in his mother’s womb at the time, and his father had not been aware that she was pregnant.

And when they finally met Thursday, the elder Kang could not resist a little gentle teasing.

“You look old,” he told his son. “Come give me a hug.”

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AP writers Kwon Su Hyeon in Seoul and Eric Talmadge in Pyongyang, North Korea, contributed to this report.