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2010/07/05  Um Han-Ah
Fate of Abducted Korean Airlines Passengers Still Unclear

- North Korean government must have fabricated the abduction as voluntary defection by hiding information
- Fates of most passengers unknown
- North Korean spy Gil-Nam Oh insisted that they work for broadcasting propaganda to South Korea
- One of the families of the abducted has been suffering from severe nervous breakdown


A the second reunion of separated families during the Korea War, only Seong Kyeong-Hee, who was a KAL flight attendant at that time, was verified as alive among 11 KAL passengers abducted to North Korea in 1969.


It is not clear whether 11 of the abducted South Koreans are still alive, but back in 1992, the North Korean spy Oh Gil-Nam, who had studied abroad in Germany, claimed that they were still alive and did broadcast propaganda to South Korea. He insisted that Jeong Kyeong-Sook, Seong Kyeong-Hee, and two other males and females were veteran workers in broadcasting to the South entitled “voice of saving the country.” Continuing to argue that the two male workers were Won Hwang and Bong-Ju Kim, he also claimed that he heard from his daughter that Yu Byeong-Ha and Choi Seok-Man, the KAL captain and first officer at that time, were working for North Korea’s air force.


At the inaugural meeting for the families of the abducted South Koreans held on December 11, 2008,   Song Young-In, the former executive of the National Intelligence Service, made a significant comment regarding the abducted people. He stated, “because 11 kidnapped South Koreans were intelligent and belonged to the upper class at that time, abducting them could be used as a tool of propaganda for their government system by insisting that they voluntarily defected to North Korea. North Korea might have hidden their information classified as subjects of special surveillance.” Most of the 11 abducted people were professional workers and rich, such as a program director of MBC in Young Dong, a cameraman, a medical doctor, and a manager of a printing office, as well as 4 flight attendants.


The families of the abducted people have tried hard to find them. For example, Lee Jong-Myeong, the son of the manager of printing house Lee Dong-Gi, said at the inaugural meeting, “my family applied for the reunion of separated families earlier than others did because we were included in the order of priority. In summer 3 years ago, I heard that my family was going to meet my father, but there was no more contact even after the Korean Thanksgiving Day. I inquired and found out that my father’s fate is unknown.”

Jeong Hyeon-Su, the older brother of the flight attendant Jeong Kyeong-Sookg, also felt a sense of loss because he heard that his sister’s fate was unknown. Seong Kyeong-Hee met her mom in the 2001 second reunion and told her that she and Jeong Kyeong-Sook live in the same town and that they are close to each other. They were high school classmates and Seong was close to Jeong when she was a flight attendant. Seong asked the Korea National Red Cross to find out whether Jeong was alive, but her older brother was notified that his sister’s fate is unknown.


While the abducted people lost their lives, their families had hard lives as well. For example, Hwang In-Cheol, the representative of the families of KAL passengers who were abducted to North Korea, mentioned that his mom suffered from a severe nervous breakdown after her husband was hijacked to North Korea. He stated, “she made me and my sister leave school early because she thought that someone was going to kidnap us. Whenever we were out of her sight, she became uneasy.” He also uttered, “She heard that if the case of the kidnapped South Koreans becomes known to the international community, the North Korea government would find and punish those people who leaked information. Therefore she cannot even complain to the press without fear.”

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