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enjoy and cherish. But we divided family members went along living without such sources of happiness, living instead with memories of war, hatred, and separation. This is our struggle.


Three years ago, when South Korea gathered registrations of divided family members, around 70,000 people registered. If you do the math, if 100 people travel to North Korea each year, it will take more than seven hundred years to get everyone to meet their family members. When can we go? Is it possible to go in the first place? How will this work?


Our nation struggles, our community leaders struggle, yet this issue is still not resolved. This is not one nation’s problem. It’s an international issue of tears and division that everyone should learn about and fight for.


The younger generation has the gift of being able to speak in different languages and reach more people. They have youth and energy, while those of us who are affected are getting older and older.


My hope is for this generation to take on the baton and sanctify the fundamental human need of family.


Although we are old, we are always vividly grieving for our homeland, recalling with bright eyes the memories of the past. And I hope this generation can take some of this inexhaustible energy and passion to create change before it’s too late.


My final wish before I die is to just touch the soil of my homeland, feel the richness of our past and reconnect. 




My name is Kwon Sung Joo, and I was born on March 1, 1938 in Ham Gyung Namdo, North Korea. I grew up with both my parents and two older brothers. After completing my studies in South Korea after defecting, I moved to the United States in February of 1988. Today, I have two sons, five grandsons, and one granddaughter.


During the war, my oldest brother was killed by North Korean Communist soldiers during a systematic massacre of intellectuals. As my brother had studied in Japan and went to South Korea after Victory over Japan Day (VJ-D 8/15), he was seen as a threat to the regime when he came back to support our family in North Korea.


After my second older brother went missing during the start of the 1950 war, my mother, father, and I, realizing that the impending violence and chaos were becoming severe,  decided to cross the border into South Korea. It would be my last time seeing my uncles, aunts, cousins, and my dearly missing brother.


What hurts to know is that if we all die, this issue won’t be of any importance anymore. While the memories are so fresh in my mind, when I leave this earth, no one will know of these stories of pain and suffering. Therefore, I’m very thankful to the youth who are taking interest in this 60 year old issue.


Living together, family is the most basic but fundamental source of human happiness. It is an undeniable gift that everyone should have and be free to

Kwon, Sung Joo

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