Thursday, June 8, 2006

North Korea "finds" Kim Young-nam, offers reunion with mother

In a bizarre twist on this tragic story, Pyongyang has confirmed that Kim Young-nam, who was abducted from the southwest coast of South Korea in 1978 at the age of sixteen, is alive in North Korea.

They also said they would arrange a meeting between him and his mother, who is in South Korea, later this month. The poor woman has been tormented by his disappearance. At first, she and her family thought the teen had drowned, but they later heard from authorities that he was likely kidnapped by North Korean agents and forced to live in the DPRK.

For years the North Korean authorities denied having kidnapped a dozen or so Japanese nationals, including Kim Young-nam's apparent wife, Yokota Megumi. In this case, too, they are not readily admitting having snatched Kim Young-nam. The Korean Central News Agency said the country had "succeeded in confirming his whereabouts," but did not say how Kim got into the country.

This case has gotten a lot of press lately because of the connection with Ms. Yokota, who is practically a poster child for the Japanese abductees (North Korea says she is dead, but many in Japan believe she is still alive).

A nearly forgotten tragedy of all this is that Kim is among nearly 500 South Korean civilians believed held in the communist state after being kidnapped, whom North Korea claims voluntarily defected.

Kim's mother, Choi Gye-wol said she is "glad" about the possibility of seeing her son. She said she would hug her son when she sees him and ask "how much pain" he went through.

Meanwhile, Japan's government said it would work closely with South Korea on the issue. Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said:
Japan has already had a variety of experiences in negotiations on the abduction issue, so we can share our experiences with the South Korean government and the victims' families.
Like I said before, this can be an issue to bring Seoul and Tokyo together. Activists working for South Korean abductees are calling on North Korea to admit its kidnappings of South Koreans and send them home:
Listen Chairman Kim Jong-il: Our families' wish is to confirm the fate of abductees.
Additionally, 542 POWs from the Korean War are believed to be still alive in North Korea, though Pyongyang denies this. Meanwhile, North Korea insists on dealing with this matter only as part of discussions on separated families, which indicates they have no intention of returning these ROK nationals.

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