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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 
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 
02-Sep-2000 03:38 AM EDT (02-Sep-2000 0738 UTC)
Source: Voice of America

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