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CNN Today

Good-Bye Again: North and South Korean Families Get a Chance to Reunite

Aired August 18, 2000 - 1:41 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Four days of emotional reunions ended today in North and South Korea. Relatives separated by the split between North and South were given just a few precious days to visit their loved-ones they hadn't seen in decades.

As CNN Seoul bureau chief Sohn Jie-ae reports, for some, the visit was far too short.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SOHN JIE-AE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (VOICE-OVER): Families that spent the last four days visiting relatives they haven't seen in 50 years returned to their homes on the other side of the Korean border. The reunions end with wrenching farewells.

"Don't go please, Kim Son-lin (ph)," as she holds on to her sister in the North's Pyongyang. In Seoul, sons and daughters parting with their parents made traditional vows. The parking lot in front of the hotel where the North Koreans were staying filled with weeping relatives, trying to get a last glimpse, a last hug.

Television reporters gave up ladders to allow some of the family members to get closer. The visitors eventually had to leave loved- ones behind and make their way to the airport.

They return home knowing there's no guarantee they will see or hear from their relatives again.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il recently told a group of South Korean media executives another family reunion could happen next month. If it does take place, this group will not be included. There are millions of divided family members on both sides of the border who are waiting for their chance to meet lost relatives. Many are in their 70s and 80s, making the timing of the reunions that much more important.

"I might see my daughter again if I don't die, but I don't know," says this woman, returning from a trip to Pyongyang.

(on camera): Next month, South and North Korean Red Cross officials will discuss setting up a permanent meeting place for divided families along the demilitarized zone or in a neutral region, providing the best hopes so far that this time parting will not be for so long.

Sohn Jie-ae, CNN, Seoul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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