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CNN Today

Waiting and Hoping on the Korean Peninsula

Aired August 28, 2000 - 1:28 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: A high-level team from South Korea leaves tomorrow with three days of talks in the North Korean capital. High on the agenda: hundreds of South Koreans who are purported to be living in the North against their will. Those talks are building on an historic summit in June that produced reunions among 200 long- divided families. More reunions are planned and CNN's Sohn Jie-Ae reports more anxious families are counting the seconds.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SOHN JIE-AE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just a couple of weeks ago, 200 Koreans got to temporarily visit their relatives on the other side of the border for the first time in 50 years. In return, South Korea agreed to repatriate some 60 North Koreans convicted of espionage, which will happen in early September.

Ever since the summit between leaders of South and North Korea in June, there has been an air of euphoria about the future of inter- Korean relations.

(on camera): While the emotional reunion has given many the hope of many more reunions in the near future, it has also left many asking the painful question: When will their day come?

(voice-over): Choi Woo-Young (ph) hasn't seen her father for 13 years, not since he sailed away on an ill-fated fishing trip. Choi says his commercial fishing boat mistakenly wandered into North Korean waters and was taken into custody, its crew charged with espionage.

Choi had no way of knowing whether her father was dead or alive until about a year ago, when newspapers published her father's name as one of the South Koreans living in the North's camps for political prisoners.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): First I was happy that he was still alive, but then when I heard what the conditions were in those camps, I almost wished I didn't find out he was alive. I went from heaven to hell.

JIE-AE: Hell was finding out her father has been given less than 400 grams of rice a day and forced to do hard labor under very difficult conditions. Choi also says hell was finding out that her government was doing almost nothing to get her father and others like him back. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If he was an important figure, or had lots of money, would the government ignore him like this?

JIE-AE: Tired of waiting, Choi has organized a group of families of South Koreans held by the North and hopes to hasten the day when her father finally comes home.

Sohn Jie-Ae, CNN, Seoul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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