News / Asia

UN Demands Whereabouts of South Koreans in North Korea

Yeon Cheol Lee

The United Nations has demanded to learn the whereabouts of 47 abducted foreigners in North Korea.

According to an annual report on involuntary disappearance, the U.N. Human Rights Council says 34 of the suspected abduction victims are South Korean and the rest are Japanese.

This year’s Annual Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance was released on Monday.

The Working Group asked Pyongyang to declare the whereabouts of 19 fishermen abducted to the North in the 1960s and 70s. They include Won-mo Choi, who was working near Yeonpyeong Island at the time of his disappearance in 1967, and crewmembers of the Five Oceans fishing boat.

Most of the missing South Koreans were fisherman.

Victims who were not fishermen include seven people who were abducted during the Korean War and three who were on board of Korean Airlines flight YS-11, flying to Seoul in December 1969. After the plane took off, it was hijacked and diverted to the North.

Other abductees include two high school students taken in 1977.  

The daughter of Seung-hwan Lee, who was abducted during the Korean War, said in an interview with the VOA Korean service that time is of the essence. “Most of their wives have passed away because it has been 64 years since the disappearance, and even their children are now elders. We really don’t have very much time at all,” Mi-il Lee said.

Japan and North Korea have been holding talks over the abduction of Japanese citizens. Tokyo has said relations with Pyongyang will not improve until the cases are resolved. North Korea has said that all eight of the missing Japanese who have not yet returned home are deceased.

A U.N. resolution established the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance in 1980. The group deals with the numerous individual cases of human rights violations.

The group acts as a channel of communication between the families of disappeared persons and respective governments.

Despite returning five Japanese abductees, Pyongyang has sent a letter to the U.N. working group denying it carried out state-sponsored abductions.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.

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