South Korean fisherman kidnapped by North Korea escapes after 41 years
Published 13/09/2013 | 14:48
A South Korean fisherman who was kidnapped by North Korea 41 years ago has managed a daring escape to return home to Seoul.
The 68-year-old, identified as Jeon Wook-pyo, had been fishing near the disputed Yellow Sea border when he was seized by a North Korean navy ship along with 25 others on December 28, 1972.
South Korea says more than 500 of its citizens -- most of them fishermen -- have been abducted by North Korea in the 60 years since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Revealing his escape from the security of a "safe country" - believed to be China - after he had crossed over the border on August 11, Jeon wrote to South Korea's President Park Geun-hye asking for help.
He told her he had risked his life to escape because he missed his family and friends in the South more and more and wished to spent his remaining years with them and be buried there.
Officials said he is now being debriefed and will be subject to investigation by security authorities.
It is not known precisely how Jeon escaped, but those who manage to make it back to the South are often treated with suspicion, and subjected to a rigorous screening programme to ensure they are not operating as North Korean spies.
South Korea has repeatedly urged North Korea to free the other remaining abductees, but Pyongyang insists it is holding no one against their wishes.
Since 2000, 28 former South Korean soldiers who were listed as killed in action have been confirmed alive in the North, with 13 of them showing up for reunions with their southern relatives.
The two nations have remained technically at war since 1953 because no peace treaty was ever signed. There are no mail, telephone or email exchanges between ordinary citizens across the heavily fortified border.
Many do not even know whether relatives are alive or dead.