updated 12/4/2006 11:10:46 AM ET 2006-12-04T16:10:46

Eight biracial children from South Korea are visiting a famous friend of similar heritage — Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward.

The children, ages 9 to 16, landed Saturday at Pittsburgh International Airport, where Ward greeted them and local host families at the start of a four-day visit sponsored by the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation.

Ward established the foundation to help mixed-race children during a trip to South Korea earlier this year. He pledged an initial $1 million, a portion of which would be given in his mother’s name to express gratitude for her sacrifices during his childhood.

Ward was born in South Korea to a black American soldier and a Korean mother but grew up in the United States. He shot to fame in South Korea after winning MVP honors at the Super Bowl.

On Saturday, Ward thanked the Steelers and Pearl S. Buck International, an organization that promotes interracial adoption and programs to combat discrimination against children, for their support of the trip.

“Just look at these kids,” he said. “They are gorgeous kids.”

Ward said South Korea is a great country, but could be greater if it overcame racial prejudice.

Mixed-race children face harassment in South Korea, where the country’s conservative society emphasizes pure blood ties. Ward’s newfound popularity has drawn renewed attention to the subject in the South Korean media.

The children are staying with Pittsburgh-area families that have adopted Korean children. They were selected through an essay contest in which they wrote about pursuing their dreams.

Among the events the children will attend is Sunday’s Steelers game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ward, who had knee surgery Monday, will not be playing.

The children are scheduled to depart Tuesday.

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