Yu Seong-jin, who was freed on Aug. 13 after 136 days of being held incommunicado in North Korea, has recounted his ordeal in North Korea in an interview with the Chosun Ilbo. Yu was an engineer for Hyundai Asan at the joint Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex.
Yu said North Korean investigators tried to charge him with being a spy during interrogation. "They showed me a copy of a newspaper article that carried the name of 'Chosun Ilbo.' They said, 'Look! This South Korean newspaper reports that you are a National Intelligence Service agent who attempted to help a nurse defect from Libya" in August 2000.
The Chosun Ilbo never carried such an article. It appears that North Korean officials went to the trouble of mocking up a copy of a newspaper story by adding the Chosun Ilbo masthead.
The interview took place at Grand National Party lawmaker Chung Jin-suk's office at the National Assembly on Wednesday. "At first, I thought the copy of the newspaper had been fabricated. But after protracted interrogation, I came to think that my fatherland had forsaken me," Yu recalled.
Yu was at Chung's office for an interview with the lawmaker prior to his testimony in a National Assembly audit of government offices on Oct. 6.
The engineer was arrested by North Korean authorities on March 30, apparently for badmouthing the regime.
Yu admitted he criticized North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and the North Korean system at Kaesong but denied working as a spy. During interrogation, North Korean investigators threatened him with life imprisonment. Yu recalled saying, "Why should a South Korean citizen stay here eating meals supplied by North Korea? You'd better kill me." In reply, the investigators told him to jump out of the window of the hotel where he was held, which was on the third floor.
Yu claimed that he effectively tortured as he was forced to sit ramrod straight on a wooden chair for more than 13 hours a day for 136 days. "I was not allowed to bend my waist or raise my hands or move my legs," he said.
During the investigation, Yu had to use up 30 ball-point pens writing 700 A4 sheets of a "confession." "The officials left some parts in a document where 'Kim Jong-il' was supposed to be written blank and told me to fill them in," he said.