[EDITORIALS]A family reunion

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[EDITORIALS]A family reunion

Kim Young-nam, who was abducted by North Korean agents in 1978 as a high school student, was finally reunited with his mother Choi Gye-wol, 83, at Mount Kumgang after 28 years of separation.
During this meeting, Ms. Choi kept crying, while rubbing her son’s face. Mr. Kim was accompanied by his daughter, born of his first wife Megumi Yokota, a Japanese citizen who was also abducted by North Korea and is believed to have died. Mr. Kim’s current wife and their son were present too. They all bowed to Ms. Choi.
Before meeting her son, Ms. Choi said that she had felt tremendous pain during all those years. Mr. Kim also must have felt unspeakable fear when he was kidnapped by North Korean agents at the age of 17. He must have felt agony while having to adapt to a new life in North Korea.
Words cannot say how much hardship and pain the Kim family must have gone through.
But North Korea has denied that it has abducted South Korean citizens, claiming that South Koreans living in the North chose to move there. It is a good thing that North Korea has finally allowed separated families to meet each other, whatever decision might have spurred its change of heart.
No matter what Pyongyang may say, it finally admitted its abductions for the first time by letting the Kim family meet. The family members in South Korea have had their wish come true.
But what comes next is more important. North Korea’s abductions, which are clearly illegal, cannot be excused just because of an event like this.
Five years ago, five flight attendants of Korean Air who had been kidnapped by North Korea were given a chance to meet their families, although the reunion was handled quietly.
That was also a one-time event, and there has been no further progress in returning them to their homes.
The South Korean administration and the North Korean authorities emphasize humanitarianism in the reunion of the Kim family. But they cannot say that one reunion solves all the problems. Ignoring the separated families’ pain is not a humanitarian approach.
In principle, the kidnapped South Koreans should be returned to their homes, but that is difficult in reality.
Seoul should persuade Pyongyang to allow separated family members in North Korea to exchange letters with their families in the South or to meet them regularly.
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