To My Unknown Cousins

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To My Unknown Cousins
A South Korean schoolgirl writes to relatives in the North

Hi! I'm Kim Kyung Hee, your cousin from South Korea. Though I don't know your names or even how many you are, I am dying to talk to you. I live in Joongkok-dong in Seoul with my grandparents, mom, dad, sister and brother, who are all your blood kin. It's heartbreaking that our families cannot meet face-to-face.

I am in the eighth grade, but I am already studying hard to attend a prestigious university. I don't know much about what's going on in North Korea, but I've learned from my school that people there are very poor and that many children barely get elementary education. I complain about having to study so much at school. But when I think of you, I feel ashamed about my complaints. I pray that my cousins don't have to live with such hardship.

Two years ago, I went camping in a small village called Haeann in Kangwon province, which is one of the places in South Korea that's nearest to the North. Villagers told me that mines buried during the Korean War are still there, injuring villagers even now. When I heard that, I thought of you, my cousins. I hoped that none of us would ever hurt each other and that we would never have to face another war. My heart was torn as I stood looking toward North Korea because it was so close, right before my eyes. Yet it was unreachable. When I heard the North Korean broadcasts every morning, my heart sank. I wish this suffering would stop. I hope this heartache ends. You agree, don't you?

Recently, my grandparents visited Kumgang Mountain in North Korea. Although they could not cross the demilitarized zone and had to travel by sea, they secretly hoped to search for you on the North Korean side. Of course, they did not find you and had to return home disappointed. I saw tears in their eyes as they told me, and I cried with them. When my grandparents described what a wonderful view their hometown had, it was clear how much they have missed home all these years. I pray that this tragedy will all be over by the time we grow up.

Did you know that my mom's and dad's families both came from Hwanghae province? My parents married each other with the blessing of both grandparents, who brought them together because they shared the same hometown. Ten years ago, my aunt met another aunt in North Korea. My heart races with joy and excitement when I think about meeting you. I have many relatives to meet when we unify in the future. But it makes me sad that I don't know anything about you. My mother's parents have passed away, and father's parents are very old. They are the only real link I have to you. I worry about this. I hope we can exchange letters or see each other even before reunification. Shouldn't you be allowed at least to say hello to my grandparents before they pass away?

What do you think about the Korean summit talks? I am optimistic. I truly believe this may help us to meet soon. Do you know that the Korean War is not yet over, and we have been living under a truce for the past 50 years? If this summit doesn't help achieve unification, Ihope that we can at least end the hostility so that we will never have another war.

The exchange of people between North and South Korea is increasing. Even this week, there have been many North Koreans in town for cultural performances. For all I know, you could have been among them. Even though I don't know your faces, names or ages, I love you. Please send my regards to your family. If we meet, let's greet each other with big bright smiles. I am closing this letter to you with my earnest wish for unification.

Bye for now. My heart is closer to you than you know.

Your cousin,

Kyung Hee