[EDITORIALS]Link aid to abduction issueSouth Korean prosecutors’ investigation into the kidnapping of Reverend Kim Dong-shik revealed that North Korea has been behind a number of kidnapping incidents in China since 1999. The activist pastor went missing in China during his missionary work in 2000.
The investigation’s outcome shows that North Korea’s abduction methods were extremely bold. Pyeongyang operated a specialized kidnapping team under its State Safety and Security Agency, abducting 16 people, including high-profile North Korean defectors. Among the victims was a Japanese woman who had fled the North.
A team also attempted to kidnap a South Korean businessman after wrongly identifying him as a National Intelligence Service agent.
North Korea, through Foreign Ministry statements, has been saying it strictly opposes any terrorist activities. The North also signed seven international anti-terrorism agreements. Despite such positions, Pyeongyang has continued kidnappings in an organized manner. Such crimes even took place in 2000, the historic year of the inter-Korean summit.
China’s lukewarm response to North Korea’s crimes on its territory is also a problem. The act of kidnapping in the Chinese territory clearly violates Chinese law. Beijing, however, hardly reacted to such crimes. China recently used force to break up a media conference called by South Korean lawmakers. But why is it turning a blind eye to North Korea’s kidnapping attempts?
North Korea’s kidnappings are also connected to the human rights issues of North Korean defectors. They are the people who flee from oppression and hunger. They must be protected by an international convention. Now that the systematic involvement of the North in kidnappings has been disclosed by the investigation, it must be raised as an international issue. Seoul must lodge a strong complaint with Beijing and demand repatriation of kidnap victims through the help of international authorities such as the United Nations.
North Korea must apologize for its crimes and pledge not to kidnap people. Pyeongyang should send Reverend Kim back to the South since his abduction has become an international issue. At least, Pyeongyang should clarify the fate of the clergyman. Seoul must pressure Pyeongyang by linking the issue to economic assistance to North Korea.