[EDITORIALS]North must return POWsThe sixth meeting of Red Cross officials from both Koreas began yesterday at Mount Kumgang in North Korea. As the meeting is expected to actively deal with South Korean POWs from the Korean War and South Korean abductees whom have not been returned to the South, the results should command our attention.
The issue was one of those brought up during the summit meeting of June 2000 between then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Nevertheless, due to insincere efforts from both sides, no progress was made in the meantime.
The North did not officially acknowledge the existence of South Korean prisoners of war and abductees and always maintained that only defectors or people who went voluntarily to the North were there.
As with the former Kim Dae-jung administration, this administration’s measures to address the matter have been ridiculous. The issue has been raised but there has been no demonstration of a strong will to solve the problem. Sending 63 North Korean prisoners who refused to change their political allegiance back to the North without getting a single South Korean POW in return is proof enough. Despite the enormous economic support we give to the North we have displayed a groveling posture of refraining from making any comment on the subject.
An official said the government plans to urge the North to adopt a forward-looking attitude. We hope these remarks are not made in vain. An estimated 542 South Korean POWs and 485 South Korean abductees are said to be in the North. How long will the government stand by and watch their suffering, which has been going on for decades?
This administration has turned a blind eye to North Korean human rights which are of international interest, thus resulting in displeasure from the international community. Under such circumstances, it is only too easy to imagine what criticism will arise if we keep ignoring the suffering of people from the South in North Korea.
North Korea needs to change now. It needs to acknowledge the existence of South Korean POWs and abductees. After that it should ask for the repatriation of its own people who still serve jail terms in the South refusing to change their allegiance. Only then will the sincerity of the North’s efforts to slough off past wrongs become persuasive.