U.S. ambassador urges S. Korea not to forget Korean War abductees
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2011-09-15 12:51:10  |  Hit 1394
SEOUL, Sept. 14 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Ambassador Kathleen Stephens urged Wednesday that South Korea not forget its nationals forcibly abducted by the North Korean army during the 1950-53 Korean War, raising an issue which critics say has been soft-pedaled by Seoul.

Stephens, who is set to step down as ambassador to Seoul after three years of working here, made the remarks in an article she posted on the U.S. embassy's Web site, after meeting with representatives of the Seoul-based Korean War Abductees' Family Union (KWAFU).

"I respect KWAFU's efforts, including its plan to establish a museum or memorial in memory of those abducted to the North," Stephens said.

"When dealing with the challenge of North Korea as a foreign policy matter, reasonable people can disagree on approaches and strategies," the outgoing ambassador said.

However, Stephens said that the KWAFU's efforts reminded "all of us that the sacrifice and suffering that underpinned the Republic of Korea's great success came in many forms, and should not be forgotten." The Republic of Korea is South Korea's official name.

According to an estimate by the KWAFU, more than 110,000 South Koreans were kidnapped during the war by North Korea, which denies any such activity and argues that many South Koreans voluntarily defected to the communist country.

Last year, South Korea belatedly launched a committee headed by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik to disclose the truth about kidnap victims during the war, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

About eight months after the launch, the committee acknowledged that 55 South Koreans were abducted by North Korea during the war, marking the first official recognition of abduction victims.

In May this year, the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, a human rights group, claimed that North Korea has kidnapped more than 180,000 foreigners over the past several decades./

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