Go to contents

Compensation to NK for POWs, Prisoners Mulled

Posted October. 27, 2009 07:54,   


Unification Minister Hyun In-taek is drawing attention with his proposal to compensate North Korea for the return of South Korean POWs and abductees under the West German method “Freikauf.”

Hyun made the suggestion Friday at the National Assembly’s annual audit of the administration.

A government official said yesterday, “The government has long considered adopting the (Freikauf) method to resolve the issue of South Korean POWs and abductees held by North Korea. Confidentiality must be thoroughly kept in the process even if details such as a specific return and chief negotiators are decided.”

These principles follow those of the German model, which requires complete confidentiality in the entire process of repatriating political offenders and has religious figures instead of the government leading negotiation efforts.

Public opinion in South Korea opposes giving cash to the North in return for the South Koreans, however, so following a modified form of Freikauf is highly likely. West Germany paid cash or gave oil and precious metals to East Germany for the return of political prisoners.

Hyun seemed to have had this in mind when he said Friday, “I’m not saying we should follow every element of the German model.”

Therefore, the reward for the North is likely large-scale rice aid.

Sohn Ki-ung, researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, suggested last year “K-Freikauf,” or a Korean version of Freikauf, in a report commissioned by the Unification Ministry.

“Considering domestic and international criticism over North Korea’s alleged use of foreign currency it received from South Korea to develop nuclear weapons, Seoul must make it clear that Pyongyang will be paid in kind,” the report said. “At the same time, the South should thoroughly maintain security and confidentiality to allow the North to save face since it denies the existence of South Korean POWs and abductees.”

“The (South) Korean Red Cross is a suitable private entity for representing the government.”