Home Society Crime 47 years on, love lifts a Cold-War curtain

47 years on, love lifts a Cold-War curtain

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“Politics and Selfish politicians are always been a barrier to love…..they can’t understand the meaning of it……For then war and power make sense nothing else No relations, No love, No friendships but they forget that love can not be thwarted by the so called boundaries. It is not a story of East Germany or North Korea……even in India…Sohni Mahibal..Heer Ranjha…every love story had a painful end. I favor flourishing of love regardless of creed, caste, and nationalities and last but not the least role of doctorial entities in love stories whatever these are family resistance or governmental iron rules and regulation coming in the way. This is the only way world can experience peace. I feel good for this couple who met after long time and still love each other and strived hard to see each other. But I personally know persons who are not so lucky. Power, Politics…and some times fate ……. barriers have been created in the path of Love…”

Renate Kleine and Hong Ok-geun met in 1955, when they attended the same freshman chemistry class at Freidrich Schiller University in Jena, in what was then East-German. Hong was an exchange student from North Korea, then East-Germany’s communist ally. They fell in love. Because both governments frowned on marriages between North Korean students and East Germanic, the couple married in 1960, in a rural town where the local authorities were unaware of the national government’s policy. No guests attended.

Then, one year later, politics intervened. The North Korean government, apparently worried after some students defected to the West, recalled all 350 North Korean students in East-Germany. Hong was given 48 hours to pack. They both cried as she saw him off at the Jena train station. Their son Peter was 10 months old and her arms. She was pregnant with their second son, Uwe. That was the last time the couple saw each other until this summer, 47 years after they parted.

Hong was allowed to travel to North Korea in late July after long negotiations between the German foreign ministry and the Red Cross and their North Korean counterparts. Hong is 74 and remarried. Renate is 71 and never married again. Their two sons, who went along the trip, are now 48 and 47.The family’s 12-day reunion was extremely unusual. North Korea remains one of the world’s most reclusive countries, and its leader, Kim-Jong-Il, maintains an iron grip on what the country’s citizens are permitted to learn about the outside world, especially the west.

The government has allowed reunions of some Korean families divided during the Korean War, but they have been rare and many Koreans died before reconnecting with spouses and children. After Hong left Germany he was able to send some letters. His last letter dated February 26, 1963 asking whether Uwe, the son he had never met, could walk yet. And then he wrote,” This sounds like a real goodbye letter.”

After that, the letters stopped, and Renate’s letter were returned as undeliverable. Her appeals to North Korean embassy to be reunited with her husband were denied. She kept a scrapbook that included pages on which she had practiced writing one of the few Korean phrases that she had learned, “dasi bopsida”-“Let’s meet again. “After decades spent working as a teacher and researcher and rearing her sons, Renate renewed her efforts to find her husband two years ago when she appealed to the German government and Red Cross Societies in Germany and South Korea.

Last year, the German Red Cross located Hong, a retired government scientist living with his new family in a town on the East Coast of North Korea. With the help of the German government, Renate wrote to him in March 2007.Four months later, on her 70th birthday, his reply arrived with photographs of him at a meeting of scientists wearing several medals on his chest.

“Our international love has brought much pain,” he wrote in German. “I dearly wanted to see you and my sons. I never gave up hopes that if I lived long, one day I would be able to see you again. “I had wanted you to be my life partner,” he continued.” But politics do stupid things.” He added that he and other North Koreans were suffering economic hardship because of the US’s policy of “stifling” North Korea, echoing the country’s Communist Party line.

After two years of negotiations, North Korea agreed to a reunion, influenced perhaps by the establishment of diplomatic relations with the unified Germany in 2001 and German development aid. Finally, last month, Renate and her sons left for North Korea. She took books, clothes, vitamins and a camera.

When they met, Hong gave her a ring and a blouse. They pored over albums of childhood photographs of their sons. They saw each other every day while she was in Pyongyang, the capital, and spent time together at a mountain resort. Hong had one daughter and two sons with his North Korean wife. The daughter joined the reunion. Hong’s North Korean wife wanted to meet Renate but could not join the reunion because of an illness, Renate was told.

(NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE)

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