Seoul Considers Buying Freedom of N.Korean Prisoners

Ryoo Kihl-jae Ryoo Kihl-jae

Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae has hinted at the possibility of adapting a cold-war West Germany's policy by buying the freedom of political prisoners and abduction victims in North Korea.

West Germany paid hard currency to East Germany to win the release of political prisoners there under a scheme known as "Freikauf."

Ryoo told the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee on Tuesday previous administrations here "discussed a Freikauf policy of the kind implemented in pre-unification Germany, and we'll also review the possibility of introducing it."

Ryoo was replying to Democratic Party lawmaker Shim Jae-kwon, who asked, "Do you have any intention to adopt a Korean version of the Freikauf policy to win the release of 120,000 North Korean political prisoners, South Korean kidnapping victims, and hundreds of South Korean prisoners of war still living in the North?"

DP floor leader Jun Byung-hun also proposed this in a speech at the National Assembly on Oct. 8.

From 1963 to 1989, the year when the Berlin Wall fell, West Germany delivered 3.46 billion Deutsche Mark worth of cash and goods to East Germany in return for the release of a total of 33,755 dissidents.

It remains to be seen whether Ryoo comes up with any concrete proposals.

Ruling and opposition lawmakers auditing the ministry Tuesday asked mainly about the success or otherwise of the Park Geun-hye administration's "trust-building” policy, especially in view of the cancellation of a foreign investment blitz for the joint-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex.

Ryoo said North Korea told his ministry the same day that "it's inappropriate to hold such an investment blitz for foreign investors at this juncture." He added the event was only "postponed temporarily until various conditions are met."

Asked about the chances of resuming six-party nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea, he said, "Seoul and Washington agree that it's unacceptable to simply let the North come to the negotiating table just when the regime has restarted the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon recently instead of taking any substantial steps to denuclearize."

englishnews@chosun.com / Oct. 16, 2013 12:14 KST