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`It`s Been So Long Since We`ve Seen Each Other`

Posted September. 30, 2009 07:08,   


The second of two inter-Korean family reunions began yesterday at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang resort.

Ninety-nine North Koreans and 432 people from South Korea attended the event, with plenty of hugs and tears over their decades of separation.

Kim Yu-jung from South Korea, the oldest participant at the event at age 100, met her third daughter Ri Hye-kyong, who was a freshman at Kyunggi Girls’ High School in Seoul when they last saw each other.

Ri, 75, had gone missing in the Korean War and had not seen her mother for 58 years, but Kim recognized her immediately. Bound to a wheelchair, Kim was unable to stand up but her four children jumped up from their chairs.

Kim’s fourth daughter Hee-kyung began crying even before meeting her sister, shouting, “Hye-kyong!” After seeing her sister, Hye-kyong ran to meet her family.

Immediately after arriving at the table, Hye-kyong fell on her knees and hugged her mother. Hye-kyong also embraced her sisters and sobbed for a long time.

Hye-kyong said, “Mom, are you ok? Can you hear me?” Watching Kim’s eyes brim with tears and saying nothing, Hye-kyong wiped her mother’s tears with a pink handkerchief.

Choking back her tears, Kim said, “I’m too happy to say anything. It’s good to see you again.”

Certain participants at the reunion said they were not prisoners of war but went to the North while fighting for South Korea.

North Korean Ri Yun-yong, who fought for the South for his father in 1951, had gone missing. For the first time in 58 years, he met his younger brothers from the South, Chan-young and Jin-young. Chan-young sobbed in saying “I thought Yun-yong was dead. I’m so happy he’s still alive.”

Yun-yong failed to fully explain how he went to the North but showed his brothers 11 medals, saying, “Since I’ve worked hard here, I’ve been recognized by my nation.” He also showed a photo with the phrase “My Happy Family” and said he has seven children and 11 grandchildren.

North Korean Sok Yong-sun, who was a South Korean soldier in the Korean War, met his South Korean siblings Tae-sun and Chang-sun and his uncle Ho-geun. He gave a deep bow to his teary-eyed uncle, saying, “You haven’t changed much.”

Yong-sun was drafted along with 10 of his neighbors in Daegu in August 1950. His family was notified that he was dead in 1951.

In 2007, however, his relatives in the South were informed that he was trying to find them. When he heard that his family in the South held rites for him every year, Yong-sun laughed and said, “You hold rites for a living person.”

He said he has two sons and three grandchildren in North Korea.

kyle@donga.com zeitung@donga.com