Defector says kidnap victim is still alive in North

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Defector says kidnap victim is still alive in North

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A North Korean defector said that Megumi Yokota, a Japanese woman kidnapped by North Korea in 1977 at the age of 13, is still alive in oral testimony taken on Sunday by Liberal Forward Party Representative Park Sun-yeong.

Yokota, who was abducted from coastal Niigita, Japan, was one of several Japanese kidnapped by North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s who were apparently forced to train North Korean spies to pass as Japanese citizens. Pyongyang admitted that it kidnapped Yokota and asserted in 1997 that Yokota killed herself in 1994. As further proof of its claim, the North Korean government sent what were supposedly Yokota’s remains to her family in Japan in 2004, but it was widely believed that they were not authentic.

The 46-year-old defector, who used the pseudonym Lee Yeong-su, said in his testimony that he knew Yokota was alive in 1997 and that the remains sent by North Korea were fake. He also said that Yokota learned too much sensitive information as an espionage trainer to ever be allowed to return to Japan. He said that, while in North Korea, he learned this information from the son of a North Korean official in charge of Japanese prisoners.

It was revealed in 2006 that Yokota married a man later identified as South Korean Kim Young-nam, who was likely kidnapped by the North in 1978 as a high school student. In 2006, Kim, who had since remarried after Yokota’s supposed suicide, stated in an interview conducted during a family reunion that Yokota killed herself after suffering from depression for years, though he was suspected of being under heavy influence from Pyongyang.

Based on his experience in North Korea before fleeing the country in 2007, Lee also surmised that there were at least four other Japanese women held in North Korea. Park said that North Korea had claimed it held no other Japanese female prisoners besides Yokota, though Japan has claimed that there were more than 10.

In his testimony, Lee also discussed his experience in Kwan-li-so No. 15, a North Korean detention camp for political prisoners located in Yodok County, South Hamgyong Province, where he was held until 1994 and later visited regularly on work for the North Korean government.

Lee said he lived with the prisoners he discussed in his testimony until he was released from the camp with the help of O Kuk-ryol, a North Korean military general and Kim Jong-il’s right-hand man, and Li Jong-ok, who was premier of North Korea from 1977 to 1985. As the son of a South Korean armed forces official held captive by the North, Lee was able to establish connections with top North Korean officials.

Among the prisoners, he focused on a South Korean captain named Park Jae-su; Shin Suk-ja, who has been labeled the “daughter of Tongyeong;” Shin’s two daughters; and two Japanese women.

Park Jae-su, Lee claimed, refused to listen to propaganda broadcasts and was placed in the Yodok camp for this behavior. In September 2003, Park, who was suffering from poor health, was moved to a stricter section of the camp dubbed a “total control zone,” which holds prisoners deemed unfit for release for life, Lee said. The Yodok camp also has a “revolutionary processing zone,” from which some prisoners can be released after re-education.

The defector said he brought Shin Suk-ja firewood two times per month and that the “daughter of Tongyeong” was suffering from mental instability. She and her two daughters were moved to a new camp in 2003 after their bags were packed in the middle of the night, according to Lee.

One woman kidnapped from Japan was brought to the Yodok camp after she resisted espionage training, Lee said. Another Japanese woman in her early 50s worked as a cook.

This was the first testimony received giving the definitive identity and location of one South Korean general held by the North, Representative Park said, adding that it was also important because it discussed additional Japanese female prisoners held in the Yodok camp.


By Sarah Kim, Yonhap [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [연합뉴스]

박선영 "'메구미 생존' 탈북자 증언 확보"

'통영의 딸ㆍ국군장교포로ㆍ일본여성 요덕수용소 수용'

일본인 납북 피해자인 요코다 메구미(실종 당시 13세)가 생존해 있다는 한 탈북자의 증언이 나왔다.

또 국군장군 포로와 일본인 여성이 북한의 정치범 수용소인 요덕수용소에 수용됐다는 진술도 처음으로 나왔다.

자유선진당 박선영 의원은 9일 국군포로의 아들로서 북한 고위층과 친분이 있는 탈북자 이영수(46.가명)씨로부터 이 같은 녹취를 확보했다고 밝혔다. 이씨는 2007년 탈북해 한국으로 왔다.

이씨는 2004년 초 북한 대동강변 지하식당에서 일본인 납치를 담당했던 북한 노동중앙당의 일본 담당자 아들이자 본인도 일본 담당을 하고 있는 사람으로부터 이 이야기를 들었다고 소개했다.

이씨는 "1997년 중학생 신분으로 납치된 메구미가 살아있고, 북한이 유골도 가짜를 보냈다"며 "메구미가 간첩교육을 받는 과정에서 몰라야할 것을 너무 많이 알아 보내고 싶어도 보낼 수가 없었다"고 증언했다.

북한은 1997년 납치한 메구미가 죽었다면서 2004년 메구미의 유골을 일본에 있는 가족에게 돌려보냈지만 가짜유골이라는 주장이 끊임없이 제기됐다.

이씨는 "메구미 외에도 납북 일본여성이 4명은 더 있다"고 주장했다.

박 의원은 "북한은 메구미 외에 납북 일본여성이 없다고 주장했지만 일본은 10명이 넘는다고 반박해왔다"며 "납북 일본여성의 규모에 대해 구체적인 진술이 나온 것은 이번이 처음"이라고 말했다.

박 의원은 북한에 협조하기를 거부한 국군대위 포로 박재수씨와 '통영의 딸' 신숙자씨 모녀, 일본에서 납치됐다 간첩교육을 거부한 일본 여성이 2003년까지 북한의 정치범 수용소인 요덕수용소 혁명화구역에 살고 있었다는 이씨의 증언도 소개했다.

이씨는 1994년까지 요덕수용소에서 이들과 같은 구역에 살다가 오극렬, 리종옥 등 북한 실세의 도움으로 사회에 나온 후 일종의 연락책 임무를 맡아 수시로 요덕수용소에 드나들었다고 한다.

이씨는 "박재수씨는 다른 장교들과는 달리 대남방송 등을 거부하다 요덕수용소에 들어왔다"며 "2003년 9월 박씨는 건강이 매우 좋지 않은 상태에서 '종신구역'으로 옮겨졌다"고 전했다.

또 "일본에서 납치돼 북한으로 끌려갔다가 간첩교육을 거부한 일본인 여성이 요덕수용소 혁명화구역에 살고 있었다"며 "이름을 기억할 수 없는 50대 후반의 이 여성은 '일본댁'으로 불리면서 요양원의 요리사로 일했다"고 말했다.

이씨는 "거의 정신이 나가다시피한 신숙자씨는 그곳에서 '독일댁'으로 불렸는데 내가 한 달에 두 번씩 나무땔감을 해다 주었다"며 "2003년 신씨 모녀도 어디론가 짐을 싸 밤중에 옮겨겼다"고 주장했다.

박 의원은 "국군 장군포로의 구체적인 신원과 이 포로가 요덕수용소에 수용됐다는 진술은 이번에 처음 나온 것"이라며 "외국인인 일본인 여성이 요덕수용소에 갇혔다는 것도 새롭게 드러난 것"이라고 말했다.

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