[EDITORIALS]Link abductee issue to food aid

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[EDITORIALS]Link abductee issue to food aid

A photograph has been made public of 37 South Korean fishermen who were abducted and taken to North Korea some 30 years ago. This faded black-and-white photo clearly shows that the South Korean government has been unconcerned about them until now. Their families’ tears and agony fill us with sorrow.
Before being forcibly taken to North Korea, these were South Korean citizens living their lives diligently. Suddenly, the violence of North Korean authorities sent their fates and those of their families into a bottomless pit. The families experienced unimaginable suffering at the loss of their husbands and sons, and economic hardship soon followed.
And an unexpected trial was around the corner. At the time, the South Korean government feared that the fishermen would be brainwashed, trained and sent back to the South as agents. To prepare for such a possibility, the government monitored the families extensively. They suffered discrimination in employment and overseas travel. But they had no one to complain to. Therefore, their suffering is a human rights issue.
Article 10 of South Korea’s constitution states, “It is the duty of the State to confirm and guarantee the fundamental and inviolable human rights of individuals.” The defense of human rights is one of the pillars of our nation. Our country’s international reputation has improved because human rights conditions have gotten better. The government was obliged to take action to resolve the abductions. That is the state’s duty to its citizens.
During the Kim Dae-jung administration, inter-Korean relations improved. The Mount Geumgang tour program and the Gaeseong industrial project are meaningful steps toward reconciliation. But where inter-Korean relations are concerned, we see the repatriation of abducted South Koreans as the top priority. The government has turned a blind eye to the most basic problem while staging sideshows. How can we call these proper inter-Korean relations?
The abduction issue can no longer be pushed aside. Why can Japan bring their kidnapped citizens back from the North, while we can’t? We should be ashamed. Now that we have seen the photo, we hope the government will take a different attitude. Seoul must make an accurate list of abductees in the North, and must resolve this matter by linking it to food aid.
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