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Lee Seong-hwan
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Abductee: Lee Seong-hwan
Recorded Date: April 9th, 2005

Profile of Abductee

Name: Lee Seong-hwan (male)
Date of Birth: August 7, 1920(lunar calendar)
Place of Birth: Bakcheon, Pyeongbuk, North Korea
Last Address: 188 Cheongnyang-ni-dong, Dongdae-mun-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Date of Abduction: September 4, 1950 (age 30)
Place of Abduction: At his home
Occupation: Owner of a brassware factory, textile tradesman
Education/Career: Hwimun High School, Waseda Univ. of Japan, Dept of Law (Withdrew due to World War II)/ English interpreter for the U.S. Military Government in Korea
Dependents: Wife and 3 Daughters
Appearance/Personality: tall with glasses / gentle nature, man of few words.

Profile of Witness

Names: Kim Bok-nam (born in 1922)
Relation: Wife
Type of Witnesses: Direct witness

Summary of the Abduction

- The abductee and his family left their house for refuge in the south but had to return to home as the Han River Bridge had been destroyed.
- On Sept. 4, an officer of the North Korean Security Bureau, Lt. Yu, came to our house. Asking my husband to accompany him to the Internal Internal Bureau for some investigation in connection with the donation my father had made to the Northwest Young Men's Association. He was transferred to the Headquarter of Internal Bureau the same night.
- The abductee’s eldest brother, Lee Seong-bong, a pediatrician, was abducted shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War before Lee Seong-hwan was abducted.

Description of the Abduction

Q. Please describe the circumstances when the Korean War broke out.

On June 27, 1950, in the morning, droves of people from Po-cheon, about 40 miles north of Seoul, came running barefoot into Seoul. So we also decided to evacuate, and hurriedly packed a few belongings. That afternoon, around 4p.m., we left our house. My mother-in-law carried one child and I had my physician’s bag, which contained obstetrician instruments (I was an obstetrician and I was expecting my third child in early August).
My husband put some food in a bag and we left. On the way to Namyoung-dong (close to the Han River), we found the roads blocked and we were told (by policemen) to detour. As it was too late to go all the way back home, we were forced to head towards nearby Wonhyo-ro, where we stayed at a friend’s house. Around 3:30 in the morning (June 28th), we were suddenly woken by the enormous crashing sound of the Han River Bridge falling down. With the bridge gone, we had no way to cross the river. So, through Mapo, we returned to our house in Cheongnyang-ni, where we felt so comfortable, we couldn’t think of leaving again, deciding our house the best refuge.
I gave birth to my third child on August 7th. So we were no longer able to evacuate. We stayed at our house, with my cousin’s children hidden in the basement. If we had known just a little about what North Korea was doing, we definitely would have tried to evacuate. As we couldn’t do anything, we tried not to worry and just took care of the children.

Q. Please describe the circumstances when the Korean War broke out.
On Sept. 4, an officer of the North Korean Political Security Bureau, second lieutenant Yu came to our house. He asked my husband to come out. In the back of the house, I was pushing my husband back, telling him not to go out, but he said, “It’s alright,” and went into the courtyard. He and my husband sat on floor and talked. Yu asked “When did you come to south?” My husband was born in Pyeong-buk in North Korea. My husband said, “We’ve lived here since the Japanese Occupation.”
There was a long silence. Then Yu said, “Didn’t you make a great contribution to the anti-communist Northwest Young Men’s Association?” My husband was running a factory in front of which was hung a signboard reading “Northwest Young Men’s Association Chapter.” My husband said, “Not much. My economic condition didn’t allow much donation.” “Why even a little?” Yu shouted.
He requested Lee to follow him to the police box for a brief investigation. He sounded as if it would not last long, so he followed him in his simple shorts and rubber shoes. However, he was not returned that evening. Much worried, I went to the police box and looked into the police box through a window. I found the two were in a conversation. In dusk, I saw Yu and my husband coming out. I asked my husband, thinking the interrogation had ended, where he was going. He said “To the main Internal Bureau but probably I would get back home tomorrow.”
While I couldn’t say anything they left by a streetcar toward Dongdae-mun, while I was watching them. As I remember, Yu was a thin and short person with double-lidded eyes and with Ham-gyeong provincial accent. He didn’t look a very wicked person.

Q. Were there other family members who were also abducted?
My eldest brother-in-law (husband’s eldest brother) was first to be abducted. At the start of the war, he fled to Ohn-yang where we had relatives. But there were too many relatives already, and the enemy forces had already come down to that region. As living was so difficult, he returned to his home.
He, Dr. Lee Seong-bong, was a well-known pediatrician in Korea. An acquaintance came to him one day. He just said, “Let’s go,” and took him away. So we only worried about Dr. Lee. We never thought my husband would be another target. But toward the end of occupation of Seoul, Sept 4, 1950, my husband was taken away, too. The abductor did not rant and he just followed him.

Q. Did you realize it was abduction?
No. It never occurred in my mind.

Reason behind the Abduction

Q. Why do you think he was abducted?
Because of your incomplete ideology, you made donations to Northwest Young Men’s Association.” Lt. Yu shouted at him and took him away.

Q. Do you think they considered basically his donation to the Northwest Young Men’s
Association (a militant anti-communist group consisting of North Korean refugees in South
Korea) a crime?
Of course. We didn’t leave North Korea not because we did not like the communist regime. We had been living in Seoul since the Japanese occupation period for education.

News after the Abduction

Q. Since the abduction, has there been any information about him?
Not at all. They told me that since he was innocent he would be released in a week. But a week passed without his release. When I inquired again, I was told that an order came down from North Korea which stopped release of my husband and that he would be moved to a safe place. No more information after that. North Korean Political Security Bureau was located at the then National Library. To get whatever information regarding my husband, I went to the North Korean Political Security Bureau but the tight guarded building did not allow my access.”
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