Jun. 21, 2005 - “I Only Want to Know..."
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2014-01-03 17:06:30  |  Hit 1358

June 21, 2005, Hankook Ilbo, “I Only Want to Know Whether They are Dead or Alive...”

It is 10:00 AM on the morning of June 21 in front of Independence Park in Seodaemun, Seoul. Lee Tae Yong (64), who is participating in the “Walk the Path of Abductees” event with other families of abductees, shivers as he thinks of what happened 55 years ago.

Lee’s family experienced misfortune in early July 1950, just 10 days after the Korean War had begun. The North Korean people’s army had entered Seoul and had begun arresting influential members of society and imprisoning them in Seodaemun prison and Mapo prison before taking them up to North Korea.

Lee’s father, Lee Gil Yong, had been a Donga Ilbo reporter before he had to resign over an incident involving the Japanese flag. After being taken away by the North Korean army, Lee’s father was later abducted to North Korea. The elder Lee was considered a missing person until 2002 when a government document confirmed that he had been abducted by North Korea. Lee did all he could to find out whether his father was alive or dead but failed to find out anything. Even today almost 80,000 family members of abductees like Lee do not know whether their abducted family members are dead or alive.

Organized by the Korean War Abductees’ Family Union (KWAFU), the “Walk the Path of Abductees’” event is in its second year. It allows family union members to walk the path their own family members took to the North and experience how painful it must have been. This year’s event brought together almost 200 members who walked a distance of 16 kilometres from Independence Park through Daehakro, Miari Peak, Gangpukgu Office, and Uidong’s Solbatgil. Lunch was two fist-sized balls of rice at a park in Daehakro.

“Most of the abductees were only able to eat a handful of roasted barley each day as they were taken up North,” said Kim Yong Il, who was arrested for being a member of the right-wing “Northwest Youth League” and was taken up to Pyongyang before escaping two months later. “I was able to endure being hungry, but I had trouble sleeping at night when I thought I would never see my family again,” he recalled. Uri Party lawmaker Yu Jae Geon, whose father was abducted, remembered with tears in his eyes the sight of his father promising that “they would meet again” as he sent his family to Cheonan in the south to avoid the war.

In the afternoon, the family members participated in a wider range of other activities after heading to the Hantan River. Here they watched a documentary on the path of abductions, shared stories, and sung songs from the period. On June 22 they plan to visit Weoljeongri within the Civil Control Line and hold a ceremony to honor the memory of those who were abducted.
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