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Happy ending for defectors from N. Korea

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December 20, 1996
Web posted at: 9:15 p.m. EST (0215 GMT)

From Correspondent Sohn Jie-ae

SEOUL, Korea (CNN) -- With children strapped on their backs, they waded across a frozen river in the middle of the night, moving silently to avoid detection.

The Choi family had no idea what to expect on the other side, but it turns out the trip was well worth it.

An entire extended family, including a seven-month pregnant woman and numerous children, made the trek to escape North Korea that began in October and ended earlier this month. Their escape took them to China, then Hong Kong, and finally South Korea.

reunion

The rare group defection across one of world's most heavily guarded borders struck an emotional chord as South Koreans went to great lengths to welcome the new arrivals from the north.

The family was cheered when they made their first tour of downtown Seoul, the amazement written on their faces.

Reporters packed a news conference to hear about the family's ordeal.

"We were afraid the children would make noise, or father would not be able to endure the trip," said Choi Hyun-shil.

Choi

But they made it, and enjoyed a joyful reunion with family members in the south, including some relatives they never knew existed.

It remains to be seen whether the Choi family's new life in the south will be prosperous. But so far it has been filled with plenty of smiles.

 
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