Pictures Suggest N.Korean Fishermen Were Forcibly Repatriated

  • By Kim Hyeong-won

    July 13, 2022 14:10

    The Unification Ministry on Tuesday released several photos supporting claims that two North Korean fishermen accused of murder were forcibly repatriated to their repressive country in November 2019.

    The two fishermen were photographed in the border truce village of Panmunjom on Nov. 7 while they were blindfolded by South Korean officials and handed over to North Korean border guards.

    The pictures suggest that the two desperately resisted crossing the military demarcation line. One of them appears to be screaming when he spots North Korean soldiers in front of him, and the other man is banging his head against a wall until his face is covered with blood.

    It took 12 minutes to wrestle them across the border and hand them over to North Korean authorities.

    North Korean fishermen resist crossing the military demarcation line in the border truce village of Panmunjom on Nov. 7, 2019, in this combined photo provided by the Ministry of Unification on Tuesday.

    The Moon Jae-in administration, which at the time was desperate to appease the North amid a flurry of summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, claimed the fishermen had murdered their captain and fellow crew and had no intention to defect.

    But the photos support allegations that the government was lying. "It seems that the North Korean refugees took extreme actions for fear that they would be executed in the North," a ministry official said Tuesday.

    The ministry commonly films repatriations for the record, but it is rare for it to release photos to the press.

    The two had in fact expressed their intention to defect to South Korea in their handwritten statements during a government investigation, but the government ignored their request and hurriedly wrapped up the investigation. The Moon administration then told the press the fishermen were common criminals who had murdered 16 fellow crewmembers on board their trawler.

    On Nov. 5, just three days after they were captured by the South Korean Navy, the government already promised to hand them and the boat over to North Korea.

    The same day, Moon sent a letter to Kim inviting him to the ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit in Busan and adding he would repatriate the fishermen. Suh Hoon, the then National Intelligence Service chief, has been accused of ordering officials expedite the investigation in a bid to curry favor with the North Korea regime.

    Last week, President Yoon Suk-yeol called for an investigation of the incident to figure out who was responsible.

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