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Archive for Friday, December 1, 2000

Korean families reunited

December 1, 2000

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— After 50 years of separation, a 69-year-old North Korean man leaned over the wheelchair of his South Korean mother and rubbed his tear-stained face on her wrinkled cheeks.

"Mother! mother! Your son is here," cried Hong Se Wan as dozens of other long-lost relatives from both sides of the divided Korean peninsula hugged and embraced in a hotel banquet room. Hong's mother, 86-year-old Park Kan-nae, grabbed him by the collar and wouldn't let him go. "I thought you had died," she said over and over again.

Hong was among 100 North Koreans who flew to the South Korean capital of Seoul for three-day reunions with relatives they had not seen since the chaos of the 1950-53 Korean War. Another 100 South Koreans traveled to North Korea for reunions.

The reunions, the second since August, are a byproduct of an agreement between leaders of the two Koreas at a June summit to work toward reconciliation and reunification.

Hong was 19 when he disappeared from his home near Seoul and was conscripted into the North Korean army. His family in the South assumed he had died and for years held memorial services on his birthday.

At the reunion, Hong kneeled on the carpeted floor and bowed deeply, first to his mother and then to a black-and-white photograph of his late father. His father died several years ago.

"Father, how nice it would be if you were still alive," Hong, who also met four brothers, said wistfully.

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