South Korean Fisherman's Escape From North Is Confirmed

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HONG KONG -- A South Korean fisherman who was kidnapped and taken to North Korea four decades ago has fled his captors and returned home, government officials confirmed Friday.

The man, Chun Wook-pyo, 68, was among 25 South Koreans who were taken to the North in December 1972 after their two fishing boats were captured in the Yellow Sea.

Kim Hyung-suk, a spokesman with South Korea's Unification Ministry, confirmed to reporters in a briefing Friday that Mr. Chun had been returned safely to his homeland, but provided no details.

Such escapes are rare in North Korea, given the heavy security at prisons and other detainee camps. In addition, escapees must make often treacherous journeys to reach the border with China and then find their way to a welcoming third country with good ties to South Korea, like Thailand. North Korea's border with the South is heavily militarized.

Thousands of fishermen are thought to have been captured by North Korea over the years. Most have been allowed to return, but more than 450 never did. North Korea has denied holding the fishermen against their will, but eight who previously made it back to the South since 2000 have said they were forced to stay in the North, where they lived under constant surveillance.

Choi Sung-yong, a longtime activist who has helped bring several South Korean fishermen and prisoners from the Korean War out of the North, reported Mr. Chun's escape last month, but South Korea did not confirm it at the time. Mr. Choi said that Mr. Chun, who escaped from North Korea on Aug. 11, was the only member of his crew to make it out. Mr. Choi said Mr. Chun underwent two weeks of questioning by South Korean officials before being reunited with his family this month.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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