Yesterday, The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) presented a new report, ‘TAKEN! North Korea’s Criminal Abduction of Citizens of Other Countries’, at an event at the National Press Building in Washington, D.C. The report asserts that over the last 60 years, North Korea has abducted more than 180,000 people from 12 countries, and states that international cooperation must be reinforced in order to solve the abductions issue.
The abductees cited in the report include 82,000 South Koreans abducted during the Korean War and many thousands of ethnic Koreans repatriated from Japan in the 1950s and 1960s, alongside others from countries close to North Korea such as China and still more from places much further away, including France, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Jordan and Thailand.
North Korea’s abduction crimes were conducted according to a systematic plan over many years, with little regard for nationality or scale; they took a range of people, from a popular South Korean actress to young Lebanese females. A number of the crimes can even be pinned directly on the whim of Kim Jong Il himself. Even more seriously, this particular form of North Korean criminality continues to this day.
In the report, HRNK suggests, “A coalition of concerned governments should jointly and bilaterally request a full accounting of all individuals abducted to or forcibly detained in North Korea as well as the immediate release of those who are still held.” It also demands that the current status of those said to be in North Korea be confirmed, and asks that repatriations, family reunions and the return of the remains of those who have already be passed away be realized.
In South Korea, efforts to bring legislation targeting the problem of Korean War abductees have been ongoing since the period of the 16th National Assembly in 2003. However, those efforts failed twice due to time constraints before the end of the 17th National Assembly session. However, this year on March 2nd a new bill passed the full National Assembly, and in should come into force before our very eyes this coming September.
Throughout the last eight years, the South Korean government has taken a passive approached to the problem, but has now come forward with legislation to allow people to learn the truth. Now, then, we must with international cooperation try to resolve this problem.
After all, we cannot honestly be called “civilized people” if we simply ignore the suffering of people dragged away all of a sudden against their will, torn from their families more than half a century ago.
Indiscriminately abducting a substantial number of people is an unimaginable crime against humanity with no precedent. To bring it to an end, along with multilateral pressure from the UN and U.S. government, we must no longer defer using the international forces of law to play the role of historic judge in this matter. It is everyone’s calling.