After 60 years, POW appeals to come back home

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After 60 years, POW appeals to come back home

A South Korean POW, who had been imprisoned in North Korea for 60 years and escaped to China in April, sent a 21-page letter to the South Korean government, appealing for repatriation, according to the JoongAng Ilbo.

The 84-year-old man surnamed Kim has stayed in the South Korean Consulate in China since he fled from North Korea. He gave the letter to Park Sun-young, a lawmaker for the Liberty Forward Party, who visited the consulate on Sep.18 during an official trip.

South Korean government officials said they have not been able to take him back because negotiations between the two countries have been delayed.

According to the JoongAng Ilbo, Kim said in the letter that he participated in the Korean War in October 1950 and fell unconscious after being shot in the head near Inje, Gangwon. His fellow soldiers left him thinking that he was dead and reported his death to the South Korean military.

But Kim said he recovered consciousness a few days later and was taken by the North Korean military.

Kim in his letter said that he could not be repatriated when the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission visited North Korea in 1953 to get the release of their POWs because the Communist country hid the prisoners in a valley in South Pyongan Province.

Kim said he was put to work constructing an airfield in Pyongyang afterward. He was married in South Korea but remarried in the North to help him have better circumstances in the North.

“I was suffering various restrictions living in North Korea as a POW,” Kim said. “My children in the North helped me to escape because they knew how much I miss my homeland.” No information about his North Korean family was available.

Kim said he crossed the Amnok River, at the border of China and North Korea, in April but was seized by the local diplomatic office in China.

“I faked my death to North Korean officials in fear of any repercussions against my children living in the Communist country,” Kim said in the letter.

Park said Kim asked him to read his letter out loud at the South Korean parliament.

“We should take measures to repatriate POWs in cooperation with international organizations such as the UN,” Park said. “We should not leave this matter as ‘quiet diplomacy’ anymore.”

According to the South Korean Red Cross, 31 POWs are alive in North Korea out of 220. The Red Cross said 154 prisoners are missing and 35 were reported to be dead.

By Heo Jin, Kim Hee-jin []
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