North Korea: A Charter Member of the “Axis of Evil”

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005 8:15 am by cyclops

Here’s a link to an amazing article in today’s NY Times by James Brooke reporting that the Red Cross officials from South and North Korea are meeting to discuss the fate of South Korean POWs and civilians being detained, mostly in forced labor camps, in North Korea (the war ended in 1953). According to the article,

South Korea’s Defense Minister has reported to the National Assembly that 542 South Korean prisoners of war are still alive in the North, cut off from virtually all contact with families and friends in the South. Separately, South Korea’s government has said that over the year the North has seized 486 Southern civilians, largely fishermen.


Until recently, the former Southern soldiers, bent with age and hard labor in Northern coal mines, were forgotten human footnotes in a deeply divided peninsula. After the end of the Korea War, North Korea tried to ease a labor shortage by secretly holding back thousands of South Korean prisoners of war, historians and escaped prisoners say.

And lest you think that North Korea is alone in its complete indifference towards POWs, Brooke also reports that some POWs escaping from the North into China have been returned by Chinese officials.

But other prisoners of war have been caught in China and forcibly repatriated to North Korea, despite their protests that they are from the South.

Last January, China deported to North Korea Han Man-Tack, a 72-year-old former Southern soldier who had been held in China for one month as an illegal alien.

72 YEARS OLD! It’s an illuminating article. For those interested in this subject, I read a book a couple of years ago, The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag, about a Korean family’s experience in North Korea after returning to Korea from Japan after the country’s demarcation. The family made this move for political reasons, but as the title of the book intimates, the move was a terrible mistake. As I recall, the members of the family that survived did so by relying on a diet of tree bark and rats.

North Korea sounds like such a charming place, doesn’t it?

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