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[Editorial] S. Korea Must Do More for Kidnap Victims

Posted March. 12, 2009 07:55,   


Kim Hyon-hui, a former North Korean spy, wept yesterday as she hugged Koichiro Iizuka, the son of Yaeko Taguchi, a Japanese woman who was kidnapped by North Korea in 1978. Iizuka also burst into tears upon hearing about his mother. Kim is one of two North Korean spies who orchestrated the mid-air bombing of Korean Air Flight 858 in 1987, which killed 115 people. While undergoing spy training in Pyongyang, Kim said she learned Japanese from Taguchi. Iizuka was forcefully isolated from his mother when he was only a year old. People whose relatives were kidnapped by North Korea probably shared feelings of anger and sorrow with Taguchi’s family.

The meeting between Kim and Takuchi’s family was arranged due to painstaking efforts by the Japanese government. After hearing Kim saying “I’d like to meet Takuchi’s son and tell him about his mother” on NHK, Tokyo contacted Seoul to arrange a meeting. National borders should never block the resolution of human rights and humanitarian matters. It is both shameful and non-humanitarian that the previous South Korean administration denied a meeting between the two sides, fearing that Kim’s public appearance could anger Pyongyang.

Seoul has more roles to play than just assisting a meeting between Kim and Taguchi’s family. North Korea kidnapped far more South Koreans than Japanese. Among South Korean abductees, 447 of them are believed to remain detained in the North. Seoul has much to learn from Tokyo, which has made ceaseless efforts to repatriate its citizens kidnapped by Pyongyang. If the North’s previous abductions of Japanese are raised, the six-party nuclear talks could lose their focus. Seoul, however, simply cannot turn a blind eye to the victims of inhumane crimes. It must urge Pyongyang to return kidnapped South Koreans.

Kim told reporters yesterday, “The bombing of the Korean Air jet (in 1987) was a terrorist attack committed by North Korea. I am not a fake.” Under the previous South Korean government, the National Intelligence Service reinvestigated the bombing after certain bereaved families of the victims and pro-North Korea groups raised suspicions. Moreover, such groups even labeled Kim as a fake and tried to threaten her into saying North Korean leader Kim Jong Il did not order the bombing.

The North can neither shed its image as a terrorist state nor become a civilized country unless it apologizes for the bombing and return the people it kidnapped.