Go to contents

[Opinion] South Korean POW and President Roh’s Reply Online

[Opinion] South Korean POW and President Roh’s Reply Online

Posted December. 07, 2005 08:32,   


“I was beaten. I was pained and distressed. But I am more worried about the health of your mother in her rural home,” said Han Man-taek (72), a South Korean prisoner of war in North Korea, to his nephew in the South over the phone in March. Han escaped from North Korea to China at the end of last year, but he was caught by the Chinese police and repatriated to the North. Nevertheless, he suffered more from worrying about his family than from the torture he had to suffer after being sent back to the North. A group of families of those abducted to North Korea (head: Choi Seong-yong) said that Han was sent to a political prison in Bukchang-gun, South Pyeongan Province, in April when it made public the conversation two days ago.

Han’s family in the South and Mr. Choi, the head of the group, are said to have done what they possibly could to have him returned to the South. Early this year, they visited Cheong Wa Dae, the presidential residence, to return Han’s merit medal awarded by the government. That was their way of protesting against the government inaction. Mr. Choi said, “We obtained Han’s letter, photos, and a recorded tape with his voice on it in April and asked for an interview with the unification minister in late October. But our request was ignored.” The number of known South Korean POWs in North Korea is over 500. What does the government mean to their families in the South?

They probably resent President Roh Moo-hyun for posting his replies too often online. Recently, President Roh posted his replies on two occasions to the articles on the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries on the website of the Government Information Agency. The articles were about the modernization of Busan’s fish market and the special law on restructuring of the supply system of port workers. Families of POWs might think that, to the president, making a modern fish market is more important than listening to their desperate cries.

When Mr. Roh interviewed with CNN as president-elect, he said, “I believe that North Korea leader Kim Jong Il is responsible for the human rights abuse and suffering that North Korean people endure.” Where happened to his idea? In the meantime, “Seoul Summit: Promoting Human Rights in North Korea” will begin tomorrow. The event is financed by the U.S. government. Former German President Ricahrd von Weizscker, who is visiting, advised, “North Korea’s human rights issue should be commented whenever the topic arises.” The government, which has ignored the Korean POW issue, should take this as a reminder. At least, it should earn the promise of the North to send Han back to the South at the 17th Inter-Korean ministerial meeting to be held on December 13.

Song Mun-hong, Editorial writer, songmh@donga.com