Pyongyang earlier this month released a 7 sentences statement regarding ‘Daughters of Tongyeong’, Shin Sook Ja and her daughters Oh Hae Won and Gyu Won in response to their respective husband and father Dr. Oh Kil Nam’s continued request. The report claimed that Shin has died of hepatitis some years ago and denied any connection between her death and detainment. Also, North Korea alleged that surviving daughters renounced their father and did not wish to see him again. Although the reply was not as optimistic as Oh wished it to be, this case publicly showed that the ‘hermit kingdom’ North Korea’s regime can be forced to cooperate with the global consensus and pressure.
Can the 3 victims be safely repatriated to Oh? It seems rather impossible looking at previous negative North Korean stance against the abduction issue but the case of Japanese abductees provide a good example on how North Korea can be dealt over this issue.
North Korea consistently denied any existence of Japanese abductees over its territory. Nonetheless, as Japanese government relentlessly pressured North Korea and raised the issue, Pyongyang finally gave out by acknowledging the internment of Japanese citizens at an official meeting between Kim Jong Il and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2002. Inevitably, out of 13 abductees, North Korea released 5 surviving prisoners and their family members to Japan.
Also, several special cases in 2009 prove to be a good outline for future terms with North Korea.
In March 2009, Yu, an employee of Hyundai-Asan Corporation working at Gaesong Industrial Complex was arrested for allegedly condemning Kim Jong Il’s iron fisted rule and assisting desertion of a fellow North Korean labourer. Yu was later freed after South Korean government’s persistent talks with the North. In the same year, the vessel 800 Yeonan was detained for a month by accidentally crossing the NLL while operating near the maritime borders. Further, having been detained for 5 months after stepping onto North Korean soil, 2 American reporters were freed following former president Bill Clinton’s visit to Pyongyang.
Pyongyang did not decide on their own to free these victims; this is a direct result of Korean and U.S governments’ endeavor. Likewise, although the report is very succinct, Pyongyang’s recent reaction can be translated as a result of perpetual global collaboration.
The campaign to save the ‘Daughters of Tongyeong’ is likely to be accelerated in near future. Through number of previous cases, it is evident that North Korean regime can be impelled to release the victims through firm international coalition. Ultimately, if Shin Sook Ja and her daughters Oh Hae Won and Gyu Won were to be safely repatriated, it will lay a future precedent and bring hopes to many who are still suffering.