Oct. 28, 2013 - Interview for the Symposium
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Fighting for Knowledge of Abduction Facts

Oct. 28, 2013
Daily NK

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the end of Korean War hostilities. However, there is no resolution in sight on the issue of the many thousands of South Korean citizens who were abducted during the war. Although half a century has since passed, the grief of families without fathers and sons persists to this day. These families lead the fight to discover the fate of these victims.

The South Korean government recently recognized Kim KyuSik, one of the leaders of the Korean government-in-exile during the Japanese occupation, as one of those kidnapped by the North during the war. However, the North remains absolutely silent on requests to disclose whether they are alive, asserting simply: “What the South calls kidnappings are actually falsehoods and lies.”

Though an official investigation has been undertaken by the South Korean government, the issue remains largely absent from the public consciousness. Nonetheless, Korean War Abductees’ Family Union (KWAFU) continues to research and publicize it as best they can. On October 24th, KWAFU convened an expert panel to discuss how to utilize international legal mechanisms to garner greater cooperation from the North.

Speaking to Daily NK on October 23rd, Lee Mi-Il, the president of KWAFU, strongly emphasized the idea of prosecuting the current North Korean regime through the International Criminal Court. She pointed out, “When Kim Jong Eun assumed power in the North, he also inherited the crimes of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, thereby making him culpable as well. We must see today’s Kim Jong Eun as one of the criminals in the wartime abductions, too.”

In conclusion, Lee promised to “continue describing the North’s actions as ‘abductions’, and to publicize these abductions in the international community so that the increased pressure will finally coerce the North into acknowledging their wrongdoing.”

Below is the full transcript of the interview with Lee Mi-Il:

▲ This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice. Emotionally, it must be a distinctive time for you as the KWAFU president.

We have been continually asking the North to provide confirmation of the status of the abductees, as well as the return of the remains of the deceased. The North seems to think that the repatriation of abductees will threaten their system, since the repatriates will verify their abduction by the North.

The issue of wartime abduction was not solved during the ceasefire negotiations because they were classified as displaced citizens who fled to the North because they had lost their homes, and their negotiated return never took place. This classification makes the argument for their repatriation very difficult. We will continue to insist that these people were abducted, and continue to arrange events to pressure the North’s stance on this issue. Hence, international attention is essential to our cause.

The International Red Cross will bring up this issue in one of their meetings, which will symbolize a “yellow card” to the North for their war crimes.

▲ What is the significance of international cooperation on this matter?

Researchers from a Polish organization, the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), were invited to the recent symposium. This organization was formed by Polish officials and citizens to investigate the abduction of Polish citizens by Stalin. Their knowledge is insightful in determining how we can prosecute the North for their acts of abduction.

We also invited legal experts to inquire what methods of prosecution are available under international law. Can it be argued that the North is culpable? We will evaluate this possibility after consulting legal experts and examining numerous similar cases.

In December, we will travel to Geneva to present documents that include witness statements and newspaper articles to the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK, as well as visiting the International Criminal Court to consult on the feasibility of prosecuting the North on this issue.

▲ How will you attach responsibility to Kim Jung Eun?

It has been sixty years since the abductions took place. However, even with Kim Jong Eun coming to power, nothing has changed, as they continually insist that the abductions are mere “fabrications” concocted by the South. Because Kim inherited the regime of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jung Il, it is possible to assert culpability on part of Kim Jong Eun. Unless or until he acknowledges culpability, it is only right that he be considered a war criminal for kidnapping.

▲ The South Korean government has passed a law to compile a list of abductees.

So far, only 3200 people are on the list, which is not enough. This means that too much time has passed, and there are not many who particularly remember the missing. Also, no reward has been offered for confirmation of case, and the process of reporting a missing person is too difficult for the elderly.

Moreover, some people still harbor resentment against the government for doing too little for far too long. In contrast to compiling such a list, a better option would be to construct a memorial hall so that later generations can be taught that the incident took place. Furthermore, we need more activities to encourage understanding and sympathy with the collateral victims of the abductions.

▲ Do you have a concrete plan?

One way is to erect a memorial hall beside the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan to commemorate the abductees. This will show the South’s commitment to protecting the rights of its own citizens. Conferences and discussions on the problem and solutions to international abductions can be held at this memorial, which will turn the South into an international “hub” on the issue.

▲ Is there anything in particular that you would like the Park GeunHye administration to do?

Korean textbooks do not mention this subject at all. The government must ensure that textbooks include this part of history, and that the situation is well known. This issue is not a mere infringement of human rights, but a compete deprivation of them. Plus, this does not pertain to the human rights of North Koreans, but to those of South Koreans.

It is widely recognized that the South does not act accordingly out of a fear of excessively provoking the North. Consequently, the government must recognize the significance of the issue and work toward publicizing the sacrifices of the abductees as well as restoring their honor. This will coerce the North regime, indirectly aid North Korean citizens, and advance the South’s international standing.

In particular, the government must use its credibility on the international stage to actively publicize the North’s unacceptable actions. KWAFU believes that “the truth never gets old,” and will continue to publicize the stark conditions in North Korea.
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