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Pyongyang Says Alleged Abductee in North Korea, Arranges Reunion


North Korea says it has "confirmed the whereabouts" of a South Korean believed to have been abducted by Northern agents nearly 30 years ago. Pyongyang says the man is living in North Korea, and is willing to arrange a reunion with his mother next week. Scientific evidence probably helped push Pyongyang's announcement.

Choi Gye-wol, an elderly South Korean woman, is a familiar face to television audiences here. Last month she held a tearful news conference begging North Korea for a reunion with her son, Kim Young-nam. Kim is believed to have been kidnapped and taken to the North in 1978, when he was 16 years old.

On Thursday - just hours after Pyongyang said her son was alive and would get a chance to see her next week - Choi was all smiles.

Choi told reporters Thursday how happy she is. She says she wants to hug her son, and learn more about what a hard time he has had these past years.

Kim Young-nam is one of nearly 500 civilians South Korean authorities say were abducted by North Korean agents in the decades following the 1950-53 Korean War. Seoul also thinks a similar number of South Korean soldiers, most taken prisoner in the war, are being held in the North.

While authorities in Pyongyang say they have "confirmed Kim's whereabouts", they have not said he was abducted or how he came to be in the North. They say he and his mother will be allowed to meet at North Korea's Mount Kumgang resort next Thursday.

Kim Young-nam's public profile was raised in recent weeks after DNA tests proved he almost certainly fathered a child with Japanese abductee Megumi Yokota. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il admitted in 2002 his country abducted Yokota and 12 other Japanese nationals during the late 1970s and early '80s. Five were allowed to return home, but Pyongyang says the others have died.

Many of the abductees from both Japan and South Korea apparently were used to train North Korean spies.

Japanese and South Korean scientists used DNA samples from Yokota's daughter, who lives in North Korea, and Kim Young-nam's mother to determine the link.

Yokota has become a public symbol in Japan of outrage at North Korea over the abduction of Japanese citizens. Tokyo has said full diplomatic relations will not be possible with Pyongyang - and has even threatened sanctions - unless North Korea provides more information about dozens of suspected Japanese abductees.

South Korean authorities have taken a more behind-the-scenes approach on the abduction issue, but have faced domestic pressure to step up their efforts since the DNA results emerged.

On Thursday, an official from the South's Unification Ministry welcomed the news about Kim as a "future-oriented step" and said the government will continue to try to resolve the cases of other possible abductees.

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