[LETTERS to the editor]Our neglected abductees, POWsKim Young-Nam, who disappeared from a beach in Gunsan in 1978 when he was 16, was reunited after 28 years with his mother and elder sister at a Mount Keumgang resort during a reunion of separated families in the two Koreas.
The event not only provided moving scenes for the media, it also drew attention in both South Korea and Japan to the kidnapping of their citizens as one of the controversial issues to remember in dealings with North Korea.
Concerning the kidnapping issue, there was much difference in the way that the Korean government and the Japanese government have dealt with the issue. Yokota Megumi, who has come to symbolize the fate of Japanese abductees, was kidnapped to North Korea in 1977 while on her way home when she was 13 years old. Through the efforts of Japanese officials to locate her whereabouts for years, North Korea finally admitted in 2002 during the summit meeting between Japan and North Korea that it had abducted 13 Japanese civilians, including Ms. Yokota. Later, the Japanese government also found out that Yokota Megumi and Kim Young-Nam were married by matching the DNA data of Kim Hye-Kyong, the daughter of Ms. Yokota, with data from the family of Kim Young-Nam. All this information was obtained by Tokyo; had it not been for Tokyo’ s dedicated efforts, Mr. Kim’s family reunion could not have been possible. The Japanese government now plans to bring up the kidnapping issue in the main agenda of the G8 summit in Russia this month. In contrast, the Korean government tends to take a lukewarm attitude about this issue in order not to provoke North Korea. Officials have not even used the term “abductees,” effectively denying the fact that North Korea had kidnapped innocent civilians. Some have insisted that they defected to North Korea voluntarily.
According to the records, there are 485 South Korean civilians who were kidnapped, mostly fishermen, and about 540 prisoners of war in North Korea. In order to solve this fundamental problem, the Korean government should continue to press North Korea by urging it to return the innocent civilians and prisoners of war. Because the abductees and prisoners of war as well as their families are getting older through many years of separation, the Korean government should try its best by negotiating with North Korea to repatriate them to South Korea, and providing them material aid if needed. Even if it is impossible to return all of them, it is the duty of the government to let their families know at least their whereabouts.
by Yi Hye-Won