Ambassadors, civic groups condemn North's abductions
The briefing, held Tuesday at the French ambassador’s residence in Seodaemun District, western Seoul, was held in commemoration of the International Week of the Disappeared, observed annually in the last week of May.
Organized by the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights in cooperation with the UN Human Rights Office in Seoul and the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, the event was participated in by French Ambassador to Korea Philippe Lefort, Argentine Ambassador Alfredo Carlos Bascou, Dutch Ambassador Joanne Doornewaard and British Ambassador Colin James Crooks.
In a joint declaration, the envoys and NGOs expressed “deep concern” about Pyongyang’s “systemic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequent enforced disappearance of persons from other countries,” and urged the regime to confirm the fates and identities of the abductees.
They recommended that the Yoon administration sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, a UN-backed treaty.
“As the fates and whereabouts of most of the disappeared victims remain unknown, their remaining families and relatives experience continuous mental anguish,” the groups said. “To date, the Citizens’ Alliance and other NGOs have submitted hundreds of cases to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances that remain unanswered.”
Among the abductees are almost 100,000 South Korean civilians kidnapped by the North Korean government during the 1950-53 Korean War, the groups continued, and at least 19,000 South Korean prisoners of war, who are believed to have been enslaved in “various mining zones through multiple generations.”
The groups also mentioned there were many Japanese trapped in the North.
North Korea has for years shunned requests from South Korea and Japan to return the abductees, claiming they had chosen to become North Korean citizens of their “free will.” The regime has even refused to confirm whether they were still alive.
Local civic groups condemned former left-leaning South Korean President Moon Jae-in for sidelining human rights issues, including the abductions, as he was holding denuclearization talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
In an interview with CNN last month, President Yoon Suk-yeol, a conservative, said the age of appeasing the North was over and that any new dialogue between the two Koreas would have to be initiated by North Korean leader Kim.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]