In yesterday’s IHT, Choe Sang-Hun tells the story of Renate Hong, a 70 year-old woman from Jena, (East-)Germany, who married a North-Korean student in 1960, yet has not seen her husband for 46 years. Like all other North-Koren students in the GDR, Renates husband Hong Ok Geun had to return to North Korea after some students had excaped to the West.

In 1963, Renate received the last letter from her husband. She pleaded her case at the North-Korean embassy in East-Berlin, but diplomats told her that

„North Korea, desperate to rebuild its economy after the Korean War, could not „give up even a single citizen“ and asked for her „understanding.“

20 years after the fall of the Berlin wall, the 36th parallel is still keeping lovers, friends, and families apart. But last year, Renate began to organize support for her truly modest wish –

„I know that I don’t have a future with him, since he has another family in the North,“ she said of her husband. „I want to at least meet him to talk about our lives of all these years. I want our sons to meet their father, of whom they have no memory, and hear what a great time their parents had once had together.“

If she’s lucky, truly lucky, the North Korean leadership may see something in exploiting her case for PR in the West.