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Home Again, With Hope

June 13, 1995|DIANE SEO

This spring, actress Kieu Chinh returned to Vietnam for the first time in 20 years.

Although the official purpose of her 11-day trip was to attend the opening of a school in the former demilitarized zone, her personal mission was to find out what happened to her brother and father after the family separated in 1954.

Chinh, who starred in the 1993 film "The Joy Luck Club," had last seen her older brother, Lan Nguyen, shortly after North and South Vietnam were divided. She was 15 at the time, and her brother, then 21, woke her up in the middle of the night to tell her he planned to join the North Vietnamese Communist forces.

Two days later, Chinh and her father, a senior finance official in the anti-communist administration, planned to leave their Hanoi home and head south. But as they were boarding their plane, her father pushed her inside and told her he planned to stay behind to look for her brother.

That was the last time she saw him.

Chinh eventually became a successful actress in South Vietnam, starring in 22 feature films in Vietnam and other Asian countries. But shortly before the fall of Saigon, Chinh fled her native country and began a new life in the United States with her three children.

The 55-year-old Studio City actress, who is co-chairwoman of the Vietnam Memorial Assn., kept a journal of her trip to Vietnam. Following are excerpts.

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