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Scenes of Joy, Sadness Mark First Video Reunion of Separated Families

Scenes of Joy, Sadness Mark First Video Reunion of Separated Families

Posted August. 16, 2005 03:09,   


“Mother, look at me. I came all the way to see you here. Please open your eyes.”

With a mixture of feelings of joy and sadness, separated families from North and South Korea met lost family members for the first time in 50 years at 12 video family reunion sites across the country such as the Korean Red Cross in Namsan-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, on August 15.

Even though they met dispersed family members only on videos, they sobbed with the sorrow welling up within them as if they met each other in person.

Kim Mae-nyeo (98) visited the second video reunion site, “Geumgansan maru” of the Korean Red Cross in the morning to see her two daughters that she left in North Korea, but she couldn’t see her daughters because of her ill health and left the place.

Kim has one son and three daughters with her deceased husband, Hwang Jeong-mook, who participated in the independence movement in China and died in 1940 at the age of 43. Kim left her daughters, Bo-pae (78) and Hak-sil (76), in the North and came to the South in 1948, which was the beginning of a long parting of her family.

Kim visited China to find out whether her daughters are alive or not. Last year, she was hospitalized due to cerebral apoplexy.

At the news that she could see her daughters, she arrived at the video reunion site in an ambulance against the advice of her physician who was worried about her health. She seemed to open her eyes at the cry of her daughters for a minute, but soon she dropped her head, to her family members’ sorrow.

Bong-sook (69), the youngest daughter, who visited the place with Kim, expressed her sadness, saying, “My mother was very excited about the video reunion. She tossed and turned for days.”

Jeong Byeong-yeon (73), who was drafted into the army in 1950 and separated from his family members, met his younger sister, Young-ae (69), Young-im (67), and younger brother In-geol (63) for the first time in 55 years.

Upon seeing the gray-haired Jeong with hearing aids in the video, Young-ae cried out, “You must be my brother. When can we meet?”

Jeong called his sisters and brother in the South and lamented the 55-year-long separation, saying, “Who separated our family members?”

As if he was trying to make up for the 55-year separation, he brought dozens of pictures, showed them to family members, and had pleasant conversation.

In the morning of that day, Lee Eul-seon (94) met her grandchildren on video and said, “It is lamentable to hear that my younger son died. I was separated from him in the Korean War. But it is good to see my healthy grandchildren who are carbon copies of my son.”

When her grandchildren showed her several photos of her son and family members in the North, she shouted, “My son,” and approached the video monitor, to the sadness of people around her.

Byun Seok-hyun (96) participated in the first video reunion at the Incheon branch office of the Korean Red Cross. He went to the video reunion site two hours earlier than the reunion time, 8:00 a.m., and waited with high expectations.

When he received big bows from her two sons, Young-cheol (61) and Young-chang (57), he was moved to tears immediately. He felt relieved to hear from his son that he graduated from school in the North and became a technician.

The video reunion involved a total of 226 persons. In the South, 20 separated people, along with their own family members of 57 people, met 50 dispersed family members in the North. In the North, 20 separated people met 79 lost family members in the South.

Lee Ryung (100), the oldest person who participated in the video reunion met his grandchild, Seo Gang-hoon (47), in the North, and the daughter-in-law of his grandchild. Lee Gi-seo (70), the youngest person who participated in the video reunions with the North met Lee Gi-seol (61), a younger sibling in the South.

Jae-Dong Yu weappon@donga.com jarrett@donga.com