By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
Last spring the papers reported on Chung In Kook, 82, a South Korean who took a cab as far north as he could and then walked to the edge of the DMZ. He jumped from a bridge there to his death. Later it was discovered he had despaired after losing for the fourth time the lottery that picks participants for the rare North-South reunions.
As a U.S. citizen, Seung Hye Suh last year got to visit relatives on her father's side in the North. She is a founder of the New York-based Nodutdol, a group that advocates for tongil. "I had heard so much about the differences from the South," she says. "What hit me were the similarities: the same summer heat, the sound of cicadas, my grandmother's own Hamwom [regional] accent. My family there are farmers. They came to meet me in Pyongyang and brought me apples from their farm. Biting into these apples made it all real for me. Pyongyang and Seoul are a half-hour plane ride from each other.
"We hear phrases like 'axis of evil' and maybe some U.S. image of the North Korean leadership comes to mind. But behind that are millions of people like my relatives who get up in the morning and work on their farm. We've been separated for over 50 years, but the desire for families just to see each other's faces remains powerful."
Research assistance: Josh Saltzman