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The BBC's Caroline Gluck in Seoul
"The heartbreak of being separated once more is tearing many apart"
 real 56k

Friday, 18 August, 2000, 04:01 GMT 05:01 UK
Door closes again on Korean families
North Korean woman Choi Bong-jo (left) and Choi Bong-nam from the South
A South Korean says farewell to her sister who is travelling back to the north
Family members from North and South Korea reunited for the first time in 50 years have ended their visits.

There were scenes of anguish in the South Korean capital, Seoul, and the northern capital, Pyongyang, as weeping men and women bade farewell and exchanged small gifts.

Even if Shakespeare were alive, he couldn't bear to write about this human tragedy

Cho Jung-young
Two hundred Korean families separated for half a century by Cold War hostilities had been brought together during what has been billed as a "week of reconciliation" between the warring neighbours.

Many expressed agony at being split up again, following the initial joy of being brought together on Tuesday.

Parting from his relatives, 70-year-old Oh Kyong Su said: "I was very happy to meet them. Now that I have to leave, my heart aches. I wish we could live together."

Lee Sun-hang holds wife Hong Kyung-ok
South Korean Lee Sun-hang holds long-lost wife Hong Kyung-ok
The reunions were the result of a historic summit in June, when the two Korean leaders pledged to end decades of hostility on the peninsula.

One hundred North Koreans had been allowed to meet family members in Seoul and 100 South Koreans had gone to the northern capital Pyongyang.


The pain of parting was made worse by the uncertainty as to whether they would ever see their families again or even be able to exchange letters.

Those who took part in the only other family reunions 15 years ago were not able to establish any contact with their families afterwards.

Many fear they may never see their relatives again
And even if there are more contacts, many of those taking part in this week's reunions are so elderly they are unlikely to live long enough to see their loved ones again.

North Korean dramatist Cho Jung-young told his 95-year-old mother: "When I left you your hair was black, now it's turned white.

"Even if Shakespeare were alive, he couldn't bear to write about this human tragedy of the Korean people."

His mother, lying on a hotel bed, told him: "I can die, now that I've seen you."


The visiting delegations in Pyongyang and Seoul met their families once as a group and then twice individually in hotel rooms.

Park Sop, right, and younger brother Park Soon
Two brothers are overcome with emotion
They were limited to meeting only five relatives and were not allowed to visit their homes.

The North Korean visitors, who included respected figures from the arts and sciences, are thought to have been chosen for their loyalty to the Stalinist regime.

By contrast the South Koreans visiting Pyongyang were picked on the basis of age in a computer lottery from 76,000 applicants.

Path to peace

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il said last week he was prepared to sanction more reunions in September and October.

The South Korean Government estimates 7.6 million people in the South have relatives in the North.

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung said on Thursday that the family visits showed the unpredictable North was genuinely emerging from its isolation.

"I believe inter-Korean ties will steadily improve although there might be some twists and turns. Now, it will be difficult for North Korea to make a U-turn," he added.

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See also:

16 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
A family affair
16 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Joy and sorrow at Korean reunions
15 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Historic reunion for Korean relatives
15 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Picture gallery: Korean relatives reunited
15 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Summer months melt Korean ice
14 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas begin 'reconciliation week'
31 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas reach breakthrough deal
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