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Tens of Thousands of South Korean POWs Yet to Be Repatriated; Government Estimates 538 Are Still Alive

Tens of Thousands of South Korean POWs Yet to Be Repatriated; Government Estimates 538 Are Still Alive

Posted June. 20, 2005 03:01,   


As Chang Pan-sun entered South Korea, the number of South Korean POWs returned home since the arrival of 75-year-old Cho Chang-ho in October, 1994 increased to 49. It is reported that there are still hundreds of South Korean POWs in North Korea who are yearning to visit their homeland in their lifetimes.

How Many South Korean POWs Are in the North?-

The government estimated the number of POWs alive to be 538 as of late last September. Given that the figure was based on testimonies by North Korean defectors and returned POWs, the real number is expected to be larger.

The UN Forces Command said in a “special report on the armistice” released in August, 1953 that the number of POWs and missing people resulting from the Korean War reached 82,318.

However, the North has repatriated 8,343 South Korean POWs and 5,126 UN POWs ever since the signing of the Armistice Agreement, while UN Forces Command has returned 76,119 North Korean POWs and 7,139 Chinese POWs. For this reason, it is estimated that as many as 50,000 to 80,000 South Korean POWs have yet to be sent back to their homeland.

Treatment for Returned POWs-

The law on South Korean POWs that took effect in February, 1999 stipulates that returned South Korean POWs shall receive salaries and retirement pensions for the period from the day of their being taken prisoner to the day of their return to the homeland.

Rank-and-file soldiers are normally not entitled to pensions. According to this law, however, they are considered as staff sergeants after three years since they joined the army and granted fourth-class salary and soldier pensions.

Furthermore, POWs can get up to 250 million won in special assistance depending on the value that they give to the government. In addition, they are graded into three groups according to their behavior in the North. Those in the first-grade group receive 32-pyeong apartments, while those in the second-grade and third-grade groups are granted 25-pyeong and 20-pyeong apartments, respectively.

Jae-Myoung Lee egija@donga.com