SEOUL, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- The second round of the latest reunions for families separated by the Korean War, the first in more than three years, began on Sunday in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s Mount Kumgang resort.
A total of 357 elderly South Koreans met their 88 long-lost relatives from the DPRK on the first of three days of family reunions at the Mount Kumgang resort on Sunday afternoon, Yonhap news reported.
The South Koreans, who haven't seen their relatives for six decades, departed from South Korea's eastern port city of Sokcho and crossed the inter-Korean border by bus in the morning.
On Saturday, 82 elderly South Koreans, accompanied by 58 family members, came back from the mountain resort after spending three days with their relatives during the first round of reunions.
South Korea and the United States on Sunday also decided to carry out the annual joint military drills in a "low key" manner from next week considering the ongoing reunions of families, the military said. The DPRK had previously urged Seoul to cancel or delay what it denounced as the rehearsal for a northward invasion.
The computer-based command post exercise "Key Resolve," involving about 10,000 South Korean and 5,200 American forces, will be held from Monday to March 6. The combined field training drill "Foal Eagle," which involves a set of ground, air, naval, expeditionary and special operations, will start from Monday to April 18.
The 19th round of reunion, the first such humanitarian event since November 2010, came after top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un voiced his willingness to improve relations with South Korea in his New Year's speech.
In the previous family reunions of this kind held in 2010, 436 South Koreans visited the DPRK for three days to meet their 97 relatives.
The temporary government-arranged reunions are basically the only opportunity for the separated families to meet each other as telephone or mail exchanges are not allowed between them.
More than 129,200 South Koreans have applied for reunions with their family members and relatives in the DPRK since 1988, and 44. 7 percent of them have died of old age without seeing their long- lost relatives, according to government data.