[EDITORIALS]A blind eye to our POWsThe South Korean government received a letter of complaint demanding $1 billion in compensation from those who were allowed to return to North Korea after serving long-term sentences for pro-North activities. This is as absurd as the Korean proverb, “A thief turning on the master with a stick.” Putting aside the North’s trickery, it makes us upset that our government didn’t reject but accepted such a message that only scored propaganda points and made no sense.
Despite severe controversy, our government decided to grant the wishes of 63 pro-North activists on a humanitarian basis and send them to North Korea. It is now considering sending 28 more. Most are prisoners of war who refused to denounce their loyalty to North Korea or are spies who worked for Pyongyang. These are people who devoted themselves to North Korea’s cause of taking over the South under communism and are thus felons who disturbed the constitutional order of our country. Yet the South was generous enough to send them back to the North, as they wished. This was the result of our North Korean policy objective of encouraging a spirit of reconciliation between the two Koreas and out of consideration that most of these activists are now in their old age.
There were many in the South who watch these men go with tears of frustration. They are the family members of our own prisoners of war still held captive in the North and of those who were abducted by North Korean agents. These families do no even know if their loved ones are still alive or have already passed away in the North. Society’s indifference to their situation has led these families to stage a rally in which they waved yellow handkerchiefs to symbolize their desperate hope that their family members return safely from the North. It is utterly shameless that North Korea, while ignoring these pleas, still demands recompensation for those repatriated to the North.
The North Koreans’ message is just another ploy to aggravate internal strife in South Korean society. North Korea had already declared in its jointly-published new year’s newspaper editorial that it will rally to “crush the American imperialists’ maneuver to incite a new war” and appealed to supporters within South Korea to form an anti-conservative grand coalition. With elections approaching in the South, it is likely that Pyongyang will use even more deceptive yet tenacious methods to alienate political forces here.
The government should spurn the North Korean message. Before guarding the rights of northern spies, we must take care of those of our POW’s and abductees in the North.