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Tearful reunions in Seoul, Pyongyang

Posted February. 26, 2001 19:37,   


Emotional reunions of families divided between South and North Korea for over fifty years turned Millennium Hall at the Central City complex in Seoul and the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang into oceans of tears Monday. Elderly family members were overwhelmed by joy and sorrow and many failed to find the words to express their feelings as they met relatives they hadn`t seen in decades.

A visitor from North Korea, 73-year-old Choi Byung-Hee was shocked to hear that his brother Hyung-Bok, 75, died of a heart attack last month while eagerly awaiting a reunion with his younger brother. Jung Doo-Myung, 67, a celebrated artist from the North, broke down while embracing mother Kim In-Soon, 89, brother Doo-Hwan, 62, and two siblings from the United States --brother Doo-Ho, 55, and sister Suk-Hee, 64. The family parted during the 1950-53 Korean War.

They were among the third group of participants in family reunions that came as a result of the ongoing inter-Korean detente. The gifts brought by the Northerners for their relatives here were mostly liquor, clothing, drawings and photographs – similar to those the preceding two groups had brought. Visitors from Seoul took with them a variety of daily necessities, medicines and mementos, as well as flower baskets.

The Northerners were assigned rooms on the 10-16th floors of the hotel for their two-night stay here after eating their first meal in Seoul in half a century. The menu consisted of Korean dishes including abalone porridge, pumpkin porridge, fermented fish and fried meat, all laid out in a buffet style. They were supplemented by an assortment of pickled vegetables or kimchi made of white cabbage, cucumber and leaf-mustard. Also on hand were such regional specialties as tilefish from Cheju-do.

Chun Chang angelhuh@donga.com