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Korean War veterans return to peninsula

By ZHOU WA (China Daily)

08:13, July 26, 2013

Former CPV members visit fallen comrades’ tombs in DPRK

"Please tell him I miss him a lot," Hu Xiurong, 88, told Zhang Ailan.

Zhang is the founder of the Family of Old Soldiers, China’s first organization that reunites former soldiers of the Chinese People’s Volunteers. Zhang was on her way with former CPV members to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to visit the tomb of Hu’s husband and other Chinese soldiers killed in the Korean War.

"If only you could bring him back to me," Hu told Zhang tearfully.

Hu is not alone. Visiting the tombs of family members or former comrades in the Korean Peninsula is the dream of thousands of former CPV soldiers and their relatives.

On Friday, Zhang will begin a new trip to the DPRK with seven former CPV soldiers. It will be Zhang’s sixth such trip to the DPRK.

The CPV entered the war to help the DPRK resist US-led UN troops in 1950. Tens of thousands of CPV soldiers died in the war, which ended in 1953.

Zhang’s father was also a member of the volunteer soldiers. After returning to China, he and his companions returned to their hometowns and led normal lives.

As years went by, the former young soldiers have became gray-haired, but their desire to commemorate their fallen battle companions and reunite with their surviving ones has remained and become even stronger.

Hu wanted to visit the tomb of her husband, who joined the war just three months after their marriage and was killed only six days before the July 1953 armistice. "We had intended to invite Hu to visit the DPRK with us together originally, but she was too old to come," Zhang said.

"But I’ve sent the message to her husband for her and their only son."

Remember those who died

Zhang began her quest to reunite the former volunteer soldiers in 2008 after learning that her father missed his former comrades-in-arms.

She cannot forget meeting Li Shuanzhu, one of her father’s former companions, who lived in the remote mountains of Hubei province.

"Everything is back to peace nowadays, and life is much better," said Li, who has since died.

Before Zhang left Li’s village, Li told Zhang, "Don’t forget those who died in a foreign land."

After returning to her hometown, Zhang sold her small convenience store and rented a three-room suite in Zhengzhou, Henan province, where she founded the Family of Old Soldiers, offering free food and short-term stays to former CPV soldiers.

"I would like to create a family for them, where they can reunite and share their common experiences," Zhang said.

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