In a closed-door briefing, South Korea's top intelligence official told lawmakers at least five South Korean abductees are known to be alive in North Korea. One of them is the husband of an abducted Japanese woman who has come to symbolize the kidnapping issue in Japan.
South Korean National Intelligence Service Director Kim Seung-kyu told lawmakers that one of five abductees confirmed to be alive in North Korea is Kim Young-nam.
Japanese authorities said earlier this month that tests indicate Kim Young-nam was the husband of Japanese citizen Megumi Yokota.
North Korea admitted in 2002 that its agents had kidnapped Yokota along with 12 other Japanese in the 1970s and '80s.
Pyongyang says eight of those abductees, including Yokota, are now dead. Five were allowed to return to Japan.
Abductee family groups say the North has kidnapped more than 400 South Koreans after the Korean War halted in 1953. Very few have ever returned home.
Many abductees are believed to have been used to teach North Korean spies about life in South Korea and Japan.
Choi Woo-young is president of South Korea's largest abductee advocacy group. She says the families of some of the five confirmed abductee's only learned their loved ones are alive in the past 24 hours.
Choi says one of the abductees' mothers began to weep when she phoned with the news that her son was alive. She says the woman had thought for decades her son was dead.
At high-level talks last week, North and South Korea agreed to take practical steps toward solving the issue of what they call "missing persons."
South Korea offered economic assistance to the North if the issue is resolved.
Japan is taking an opposite approach. The country's ruling coalition submitted a bill Friday that would impose sanctions on North Korea if Pyongyang does not provide more cooperation on the abductee issue.
Pyongyang, which has said sanctions would be viewed as an act of war, often has denied abducting anyone other than the 13 Japanese. Authorities there have said any Japanese or South Koreans in the country were there voluntarily.