Friday, 24 August 2007

The Children They Left Behind

from
The Korea Times
German Longs for Reunion With Her Husband in NK
By Sa Eun-young, Lee Ye-ha

A German woman has expressed hope that the upcoming inter-Korean summit will be a breakthrough toward meeting her husband, Hong Ok-geun, 73, who was sent back to North Korea 46 years ago.

"I believe that my long-time desire will come true now that talks between South and North Korea are taking place," Renate Hong, 70, told a news conference in Seoul Thursday.

The now elderly Hong first met her North Korean husband when she was 18 and they were both students at a university in East Germany. The two fell in love and married after dating five years.

Hong, however, has not seen her husband since North Korea forcibly called back students studying abroad in 1961. They had been married for one year and Hong was pregnant with their second child.

At first, the couple were able to keep in touch through letters, but all contact was cut off after two years and despite numerous attempts Hong was unable to learn about her husband's well being.

It was only this year that she heard the long-awaited news that her husband was alive. According to the German Red Cross, Hong Ok-geun is a retired scholar living in Hamheung, South Hamgyeong Province.

With new hopes of being reunified with her husband after nearly half a century, Hong visited Cheong Wa Dae Thursday to deliver a petition to President Roh Moo-hyun, which asks for his support in opening a way to meet her husband.

Also attached was a petition Hong hoped President Roh would pass on to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il when they meet for the inter-Korean summit slated for Oct. 2-4.

Although it was not easy raising two children on her own, Hong told reporters that her sons were her source of strength and she was happy being able to raise the sons of the person she loved.

Hong's greatest desire is that her two sons will be able to see their father even if she is unable to see him.

A documentary was made last January depicting Hong's story, ``Renate Hong's Longing Song for Her Husband--I hope to see you again." An encore will be aired on Q Channel at 9 p.m. Monday.

Hong's schedule in Korea includes meeting former President Kim Dae-jung and visiting Mount Geumgang in North Korea before leaving Seoul next Friday.

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