January 26, 2012 10:12
North Korea abducted 571 South Koreans as part of a bizarre kidnapping campaign after the 1950-53 Korean War, according to document obtained by a North Korean defectors' group. The South Korean government had put the number at 517.
The document, apparently prepared by the North Korean Red Cross, was obtained from a source by Choi Sung-yong of activist group Family Assembly Abducted to North Korea. It shows that 554 South Koreans were abducted in the South and taken to North Korea, and 17 were kidnapped overseas.
The document dates from August 2008 and contains the personal details of 14 of the 17 who were abducted abroad. "An investigation was conducted regarding the latest information on 554 people who entered the North and 17 who entered from overseas based on an inquiry into the Public Security Department," it says.
It states which of the 14 are still alive, as well as the date they died or whether they can still be accounted for. It adds that three of the 17 who were abducted abroad "never entered [North Korean] territory."
A Unification Ministry official said, "It is difficult to verify whether the document was really prepared by the North Korean Red Cross, but the personal details of abduction victims listed, including dates of birth, is correct."
Defectors' groups believe the information is accurate because the data collected by the government has changed many times. In 1999, the government said 454 South Koreans were abducted after the war, but revised the number to 487 in 2000 and to 517 last year.
The document appears to have been prepared ahead of reunions of families separated by the war. North Korea said at the end of the document that it is willing to accommodate the wishes of the family members of the abduction victims.
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