Jan. 23, 2001 - What has the Government Done?
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2014-01-02 17:36:13  |  Hit 969
January 23, 2001, Chosun Ilbo Editorial
What has the Government Done for Wartime Abductees

It has been revealed that more than 7000 South Koreans were abducted by North Korean forces during the Korean War. Recently, a member of the ruling party released reports of abduction collected by the South Korean Red Cross over a two month period from June 1956.

According to these reports, 30% of those abducted were politicians, public servants, lawyers and other members of the social elite, while the rest were farmers, businessmen, company workers and students.

It is hard for us not to ask the South Korean government and Red Cross what they have done all this time for these abductees. We also ask why it was that the South Korean Red Cross was able to confirm that 377 abductees were still alive but was unable to make any progress on learning more about their situation. Of course, we understand that North-South Korean relations after the war was enveloped in the whirlpool of the Cold War and that antagonism on both sides made it difficult to make bring about any success on the issue. That being said, the fact that they have been forgotten for the past half century is outrageous.

When direct North-South relations became too difficult, the government and Red Cross could have continued efforts through the International Red Cross and other international organizations and possibly confirmed the whereabouts of the abduction, not to mention their condition and even a demand for their repatriation. The government failed to do this, however, and it is unfortunate to say the least that even if such efforts had been taken, they may have been fruitless.

The reports also show that North Korea abducted ordinary South Koreans like farmers and company workers to fill labor shortages in the country’s post war rebuilding, in addition to high profile abductees like Lee Gwang Su, An Jae Hong, Jo So Ang, and Hyun Sang Yun.

The reports undermine the perception that only famous South Koreans were carted away by North Korean forces and that the abductions were carried out in a systemic, pre-planned manner. The reports also hint at the fact that the number of abductees is far larger than 7000.

The government must, belated as it is, demand that North Korea provide information about the whereabouts of these abductees. It is ridiculous that unrepentent prisoners who spent decades in prison for supporting North Korea were sent unconditionally back to the North while we have no idea whether our country’s abductees are alive or dead.

While it is likely most abductees have indeed died, North Korea should provide information about their deaths and provide this information to their families in South Korea. The South Korean government should also work to provide opportunities for reunions or letter-exchanges between surviving abductees and their families. Only when the abductees issue is solved can the “atmosphere of North-South reconciliation” the government seems to attach to every statement it makes become a reality.
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