A Week of Mixed Emotions

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A Week of Mixed Emotions

We have all witnessed this week a drama of grief, trauma, surprise and joy that at times brought mixed feelings of pain, anger, discomfort, relief and hope. This has truly been an emotionally kaleidoscopic and difficult week.

The reunion of family members after 50 years of separation, of not knowing whether a mother, father, child, brother, sister, husband or wife was alive, was a remarkable event to watch and for most of the world an unbelievable and difficult event to truly understand. Most of us, whether Korean or otherwise, have no real sense of the pain, uncertainty or grief of not knowing the fate of a family member. I have lived in Korea for more than 20 years, but I know that I can go to the U.S. at any time to visit family members. It is an unimaginable nightmare to be separated from a family member for such a long period of time without the hope of discovering their welfare and unable to communicate. The leaders of both nations deserve praise for making this one of the first priorities in the early stages of reconciliation between the North and the South.

As I watched this drama unfold, I felt a sense of unease at being a spectator of these first minutes of family reunion. In many respects, these moments should have been permitted to pass without the blare of television lights or thrusting of microphones. On the other hand, witnessing these reunions in Pyongyang and Seoul was very healthy for the reconciliation process and gave the citizens on both sides of the 38th parallel greater comfort and trust in the hope that Korea really will be one nation again in the future.

As great as the joy, great also must have been the pain, knowing that the family must once again be separated, not knowing for certain whether they would ever again see the sparkle of each other's eyes. I felt a sense of pain and anger at the politics of power that has kept these families separated. Most are innocent victims who have had no part in the separation or continuation of the circumstance that mandates that the separation be prolonged. Surely a way can and must be found to permit those who were briefly reunited to continue to have regular contact by mail or other form of telecommunication not to speak of the absolute necessity of assisting the countless others who still live this nightmare. All must be relieved of this uncertainty and pain.

Many of the tears that were shed during the initial moments of these reunions seemed to be tears of grief rather than joy. Grief over the loss of time, of not being able to watch a child grow, of not being able to care for an aging mother, and of not being able to fulfill the most basic of life's responsibilities: caring for family members. The wall of separation between these families is a barrier preventing them from fulfilling this fundamental human right and need.

In every sense, however, this was a wonderful and miraculous event. I rejoice with these family members who have been relieved of the uncertainty and who have had the opportunity to clasp hands and feel the warmth of love and devotion from one who was lost. It is now in the hands of the leaders in the North and South as to whether these reunions will continue and whether a way can be found to permanently end this tragedy of separation. These reunions have given us renewed hope and optimism for the future. Surely a time will come in which there will be continuous and open communication with family members living across the border that divides this great nation.

by Jeffrey Jones

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