DATE=9/2/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=KOREA SPIES (L ONLY) NUMBER=2-266074 BYLINE=ANDREW WOOD DATELINE=SEOUL INTERNET=YES CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: One of the world's most heavily fortified borders opened today for a few minutes to allow a group of elderly former spies and guerillas to return home. Sixty-three people jailed by South Korea over several decades for supporting communist North Korea were able to cross the D-M-Z -- or Demilitarized Zone -- that has separated the two Koreas for nearly half a century since the end of the Korean War. As Andrew Wood reports from the South Korean capital Seoul, this is the latest step in a process of reconciliation between the two Cold War enemies. TEXT: The repatriation of spies is a result of an historic summit in June, the first-ever between the leaders of communist North Korea and the pro-Western South. Some of the prisoners crossed the demarcation line in wheelchairs. Others walked. Many sang songs calling for reunification of the divided peninsula. Most of them were in their 60s though the eldest was 80. One had spent 45 years in jail for spying for Pyongyang. Long after the end of the Cold War elsewhere in the world, the two Koreas have remained frozen in a strange state: not fighting each other, but never really at peace either. They have yet to sign a full peace treaty to formally end the Korean War of the 1950s, and 37-thousand American troops remain stationed here to deter another communist invasion. But since President Kim Dae-jung, a former dissident, came to power in South Korea in 1998, he has tried to thaw relations, using what is called a "Sunshine Policy"of engagement with the North. And it does seem to be having results. Tension has been reduced on the peninsula. Last month, a few lucky families were able to meet relatives they had not seen for up to half a century. More reunions are planned. There are plans to reopen rail links and build roads across the border. North Korea needs help - poor management, the loss of support from former communist allies such as Russia, and natural disasters have left its economy close to collapse. Famine has claimed hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of lives. The country relies on foreign aid donations to feed its people But the spy repatriations remain controversial in South Korea. Critics say the South is giving away too much too soon. Opposition politicians say the government should have struck a tougher bargain with the North, and in return secured the release of hundreds of abducted fisherman and South Korean prisoners of war they believe are still alive in the North.(Signed) NEB/AW/PFH 02-Sep-2000 03:38 AM EDT (02-Sep-2000 0738 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
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