Lack of POW deal called ‘criminal’
Families of both South Korean prisoners of war and kidnapping victims still alive in North Korea expressed frustration and disappointment yesterday that their issues were not addressed, even as the two sides agreed to expand reunions.
“There is absolutely no improvement in our situation,” Choi Sung-yong, head of the Abductees’ Family Union, said angrily. “The government just lacks any determination to resolve this matter.”
Choi’s father, Choi Won-mo, was abducted to the North in 1967 during a fishing expedition.
“Before Kim Dae-jung went to Pyongyang for the first summit in 2000, we made numerous appeals to him to address repatriation of the South Koreans abducted to North Korea,” Choi said. “Kim agreed to send 63 communist prisoners back to the North, but our issue was not even mentioned. Seven years have passed, and there is nothing for us again.”
President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il did agree to conduct more reunions of families separated since the 1950-53 Korean War.
They said the two countries will allow the separated families to exchange video letters and hold routine meetings after the construction of a reunion center at Mount Kumgang is completed.
According to the Defense and Unificaton Ministries, 560 prisoners of war and 480 kidnap victims have not returned from North Korea. It is not known how many are still alive.
Do Hee-yun, secretary general of the civic group Citizen’s Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees, said the agreement is not only unsatisfactory but “criminal” to the families of kidnap victims and POWs held in the North.
“The two Koreas have allowed some families of kidnap victims and POWs to join the separated family reunions, comprising about five to ten percent of the attendants every time,” Do said.
“That, however, cannot be a fundamental solution,” he said. “The latest accord apparently reconfirms the two Koreas’ intention to continue dealing in this matter just the same as other separated families.”
Do said the clock is ticking because South Korean POWs held in the North are aging after a separation of more than a half-century from their families, and Seoul’s responsibility for them is particularly high.
About 30 people protested in front of the Blue House yesterday to denounce the Roh administration’s poor treatment of the issue at the inter-Korean summit.
By Ser Myo-ja Staff Writer