Silmido agents’ families get $217,000

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Silmido agents’ families get $217,000

The Seoul Central District Court yesterday ruled in favor of family members of the espionage agents killed in the Silmido uprising, and ordered the government to pay them a total of 253 million won ($217,000) in compensation.

“The Silmido agents were not informed of the level of danger involved with their training, and the harshness of the training violated their basic human rights,” the court said in its ruling.

The court also acknowledged the emotional pain the government caused by not officially disclosing the agents’ deaths to family members until 2006.

Twenty-one family members of the deceased Silmido agents sued the government last year, seeking 670 million won in compensation.

The case dates back to the 1960s, when the South Korean government started to implement tighter controls against North Korea. As part of the effort, the government established special espionage units, which included Unit 684 in Silmido, an uninhibited island in the Yellow Sea.

Unit 684 was comprised of convicted criminals and social outcasts, and was formed to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Il Sung after the North’s assassination attempt on President Park Chung Hee in 1968.

Unit 684’s mission was terminated when the two Koreas began to move toward reunification. Seven of the agents had already died during their training, and the South Korean government planned to kill the surviving members to cover up the project. On Aug. 23, 1971, the 24 remaining agents mutinied, killing their trainers in Silmido and hijacking a bus headed to Seoul. After they were stopped by Army roadblocks, most of the agents were either killed or committed suicide with hand grenades. The four agents who survived the confrontation were executed on March 10, 1972.

The government concealed the incident until the early 1990s, and did not release its official report until 2006. In 2003, the local film “Silmido,” based on the events surrounding Unit 684, brought attention to the incident.


By Cho Jae-eun [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]

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