Renate’s lifelong wish

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Renate’s lifelong wish

This is the story of a German woman who met and fell in love with a Korean student, only to become separated from him for 46 years. She raised their two sons by herself but says she has never forgotten her North Korean husband, whom she has not seen since he returned to his homeland. Now in her 70s, this woman is visiting Seoul. She still sheds tears when she talks about her husband and wishes to see him again, if only for one more time.
Renate Hong’s story, which was first introduced by the JoongAng Ilbo in Korea, is even more dramatic than fiction. She met Hong Ok-geun, a North Korean student studying in East Germany, in 1955 at a welcome party for new students. After four years of dating and despite her parent’s opposition, they got married. Their first son was born, but when she was pregnant with their second son in 1961, her husband was suddenly summoned home as North Korea called back all its students from eastern Europe. After their separation, she could keep in touch with her husband through the mail, but even this stopped after a few years. Now she has no way of even knowing whether he is still alive or not. Earlier this year, she was able to hear through Germany’s Red Cross that her husband had worked as a scholar but was now retired and living in Hamheung.
Renate, who has had to endure a long separation after so short a time of happiness, has but one humble hope. She has no intention of putting her husband, who reportedly remarried after settling in North Korea, in any difficult situation, but would only like to meet him to talk about how their lives had been. She would also like to show her husband their two sons, who have become adults now. Renate has even sent President Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-il a petition to help realize this reunion.
Renate’s story concerns neither ideology nor politics. It is about what it means to be human and to love. She has stated that if it is difficult for her husband to come back to Germany she would go to North Korea.
If even this proves difficult, she hopes for at least a reunion like those that have been held between family members separated by the armistice line dividing the Korean Peninsula.
We hope that during the summit meeting in October, our two leaders will bring this subject up and discuss a way to grant Renate’s lifelong wish. Uniting Renate with her husband would be a small but valuable gesture of humanitarianism that would touch the hearts of people around the world.
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