Korean-Americans donate for POWs

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Korean-Americans donate for POWs


An organization of Korean-Americans has donated 200 million won ($175,800) for South Korean POWs who were abducted to the North during the Korean War.

Dream Makers for North Korea, a Seoul-based private foundation for veterans of the war and North Korean defectors, yesterday said it had received the donation from the Grace & Mercy Foundation.

“We grew up in America, so we know the very basic background of history and we don’t really understand the depth of their heartache, the tragedy of the situation,” foundation president Mark Shaw said yesterday. “But, obviously, to be here and to hear their story was really touching for us.”

“We are just a very small, private family foundation of Korean-Americans and we have 90 organizations we support,” he added.

“Our mission is to help those who are underserved or marginalized, and that means people who can’t help themselves. We will keep in touch with the Dream Makers for North Korea.”

The Seoul foundation, led by Park Sun-young, a former lawmaker of the Liberty Forward Party and an activist for North Korean human rights, yesterday held a press conference at the War Memorial of Korea attended by about 30 former South Korean POWs. They were abducted during the Korean War and defected from North Korea.

“I was abducted to the North when I was serving in the South Korean Army in Gangwon in 1953,” said Yoo Young-bok, 82, who returned in 2000. “I had been detained in the North for 47 years since then, forced to work at a coal mine where my freedom and human rights were abused.

“While we were in the North, we had hope that the mother country would rescue us because our armies knew we were there, abducted to the North,” he said. “However, for the past decades no one looked for us, and many soldiers were executed trying to escape or protesting the persecution.

“Still, there are about 80 people whose fathers were POWs, and we demand the government pay compensation for them,” he said.

Two Koreans working overseas also attended the briefing and donated 10 million won each to the foundation.

One of them was Yim Do-jae, president of the United Korean Association in Africa and the Middle East.

“It was really touching to see these POWs, because we know that we can do well overseas thanks to their services and sacrifice,” Yim said.

“I will introduce Dream Makers for North Korea to other Koreans in Africa and the Middle East region.”

According to statistics released by the Ministry of National Defense in 2005, 1,369 South Korean soldiers were abducted during the war and 542 were reportedly still alive. So far, about 80 POWs have defected on their own.

Pyongyang has flatly denied that any POW abducted from the South during the war is in North Korea.

Park, of Dream Makers for North Korea, criticized the government for failing to provide adequate support to the POWs.

“It’s totally nonsense that the POWs who have defected to the South without support from the government have nowhere to stay here,” said Park, who is the foundation’s chairwoman. “So we are in the process of organizing a fund-raising campaign to build a nursing home facility for them in the near future.”

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr ]

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