Elderly South Korean grandma yearns to see two brothers in the North separated by war

Delegations from the two Koreas launched Red Cross talks on June 22, 2018, to discuss humanitarian issues, including the reunion of separated families.
Delegations from the two Koreas launched Red Cross talks on June 22, 2018, to discuss humanitarian issues, including the reunion of separated families. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (XINHUA) - A South Korean grandmother, separated from her family across the inter-Korean border since the 1950-53 Korean War broke out, yearned for seeing her two younger brothers in North Korea, only once, if possible, during her remaining lifetime.

"I always hope to see my brothers. That's my only hope. There's nothing to hope except it. (If I see them), my dream comes true," said Madam Park Ok-sun, a 94-year-old living in Seoul, in a recent interview with Xinhua news agency.

In May, she went to an observatory in Gangwon province, located close to the heavily armed inter-Korean border, to see the North Korean land. While she was looking down from the top floor of the observatory, she said to herself, "When can I ever cross the border to the land?"

Delegations from the two Koreas launched Red Cross talks on Friday (June 22) morning to discuss humanitarian issues, including the reunion of separated families. Families of the two Koreas have been banned from contacting and meeting each other since the Korean War ended with armistice in 1953.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held the third-ever inter-Korean summit on April 27 at the border village of Panmunjom, agreeing to hold the reunion event at around Aug 15, the day to mark the 73rd anniversary of the Korean Peninsula's liberation from the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule.

When Mr Moon and Mr Kim met for the first time and shook hands over the border, marked only by a cement kerb, the two leaders crossed over the kerb to the North Korean side together before coming back to the South Korean side. It was broadcast live nationwide to South Korean people.

"When I watched the scene, I cheered and was delighted very much. I thought at the time that things will go easy," said Madam Park who left her two younger brothers in the North but had yet to confirm whether they are still alive.

 
 
 

Madam Park is the eldest daughter of her family, having two sisters and three brothers. Her sisters passed away before the Korean War, and one of the three brothers died of cancer. Since the war broke out, she has never heard of her two brothers again.

Fewer than 100 days after she got married in 1946, her husband went to South Korea to get a job. A year later, she secretly crossed the border to South Korea to meet her husband. Another year later, she went back secretly to North Korea because her father passed away.

Since the peninsula's liberation from the Japanese colonisation, the two Koreas were divided into South Korea and North Korea. Both Koreas separately established governments in 1948.

During the Korean War, Madam Park returned to South Korea to live with her husband. After arriving at Busan on a ship, the southeastern port city of South Korea, she went up to the capital Seoul and met her husband, but since then, she has never met her younger brothers.

"I didn't try to find (my younger brothers). I had a husband, three sons and one daughter. I had to focus on domestic affairs," said the 94-year-old who looked hale and hearty.

Currently, she lives alone as her husband passed away many years ago. Her children all got married, living separately from her. She spent much of her time these days attending the choir practice with people who left their families in the North.

Madam Park said the separated families of the choir talked little about their hometown and relatives in North Korea. Many of them, who had memories of hometown, already died of old age. Furthermore, they had no way to confirm whether their North Korean relatives are still alive.

"Five or 10 years later, (the reunion) will be of no use. Now is the right time (to hold the reunion event). I also may live two or three more years," said Madam Park with tears in her eyes.

Asked about what she would say if she gets a chance to see her brothers, Madam Park said she had nothing to say. All she wants is to see that her brothers are still alive.