Last month the White House announced its intention to lift economic sanctions on North Korea, following a breakthrough in denuclearization talks. But some human-rights advocates warn the Kim Jong il regime remains a terrorist threat. Jason Strother reports for VOA from Seoul.
Hwang In Cheol says he never had the chance to know his father. That is because in 1969, when he was three-years-old, a North Korean operative high-jacked his father's flight and re-routed it to Pyongyang. Hwang says most of the abductees were released several months later.
He says in June 1970, 39 of the flight's 51 passengers were returned to South Korea. But he says his father was one of 11 who never made it home.
Hwang and several other members of a Seoul-based human-rights group recently held a demonstration in front of the U.S. embassy in the South Korean capital. They say they want Washington to reconsider dropping North Korea from its list of states that sponsor terrorism until the kidnapping issue has been resolved.
Removal from the terror list and other incentives were offered to Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear-weapons program.
De-listing would open the door to international investment and permit North Korea to receive loans from institutions such as the World Bank.
The president of the Citizens Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees, Do Hee Yoon, says the economic sanctions cannot be lifted yet.
North Korea has kidnapped people from many other countries, not just South Korea, Do says. This is a clear example of terrorist activity. If these people are not returned home, how can North Korea be removed off the terrorism sponsor list, he asks?
Tensions between the two Koreas have risen since the July 11 killing of a 53-year-old South Korean tourist at the Mount Geumgang resort in North Korea.
Pyongyang says the woman strayed into a prohibited military zone and has denied Seoul's requests to launch an investigation into the shooting.
Do says this is another example of why the international community cannot trust the Kim Jong il regime.
He says North Korea is still the most dangerous country and the shooting at Mount Geumgnag proves that. He agrees with the Bush administration that North Korea needs to be taken out of its isolation, but thinks for now, North Korea is just not ready to become a member of the global society. He says Washington needs to rethink its decision to remove Pyongyang from the terrorism list.
It is not clear if removal from the terrorism list is near. The nations involved in the six-party denuclearization talks, the Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States have yet to agree on a way to verify North Korea's declaration of its nuclear-weapons program; a pre-condition for ending sanctions.
But a senior analyst at the international Crisis Group in Seoul, Daniel Pinkston, says even if Pyongyang is taken off the terrorism list, the decision is not set in stone.
He says if North Korea is found to have cheated on its nuclear disclosure, then Washington has the right to take its incentives back.
"Lifting the sanctions under the trading with the enemy act and also de-listing North Korea from the State Department's terrorism list, those are reversible," said Daniel Pinkston. "So if North Korea does not comply if they are not forthcoming, then we can go back to sanctions regime, to containment."
Hwang In Cheol, the man who says his father's plane was high jacked by North Korea, hopes that President Bush and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak will discuss the abductees issue when they hold their summit.
But he knows there is no guarantee that he will ever be reunited with his father.
He says he does not know anything about the whereabouts of his father.
In 2006, the Red Cross said they could not confirm whether he is alive or dead. If he is still living he would be 72-years-old.