November 17, 2016 – Human rights organizations and families of those allegedly abducted by North Korea have called for their return, underlining today that Pyongyang’s post-Korean War policy constitutes “a crime against humanity”.
On Thursday, relatives and diplomats gathered for an event in the Thai capital named North Korea’s Abductions: Voices from Thailand, Japan and South Korea to pressure governments to act.
One participant, Philip Robertson, Asia deputy-director at Human Rights Watch, underlined to Anadolu Agency the strength of feeling.
“The United Nations commission of inquiry about these cases found that there is a coordinated policy of abductions by the North Korean government,” said Robertson.
“They are clearly crimes against humanity.”
Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the North is suspected of forcibly abducting hundreds of South Korean, Japanese and, in one case, Thai citizens.
The abductees are mostly utilized to teach foreign languages to North Korean spies, while women were sometimes abducted to be married to American defectors.
In 1969, a Korean Air plane transporting 46 South Korean passengers and four crew was hijacked by a North Korean agent and diverted to North Korea.
Negotiations between Seoul and Pyongyang saw 39 passengers handed back to the South in 1970, but little has since been heard of the remaining 11.
In 1978, 23-year-old Thai woman Anocha Panjoy was allegedly abducted by a North Korean agent in Macau.
For 26 years, her family presumed her dead, until a U.S. army soldier, who himself had defected to North Korea in 1965 — met with Panjoy’s family.
Charles Jenkins, who had been allowed to leave the North, told them of their friendship and gave them a photograph that showed her on a beach.
He said that he had lived with three other U.S. defectors in the same compound as Panjoy and Japanese female abductees.
Relatives told Anadolu Agency on Thursday that while Japan and South Korea have been relentless in pressuring Pyongyang to hand back nationals, Thailand has been less persistent.
“The Thai authorities are supporting us, but their attitude is not very clear,” Panjoy’s nephew Banjong Panchoi said Thursday.
“When North Korean officials said that they did not abduct Anocha [Panjoy] and that she is not in North Korea, Thailand should not accept it as an answer.”
Robertson called for an end to Thailand’s apparent policy.
“Of course, Thailand will face North Korea’s denial again and again, but they need to be persistent,” he said.
Pyongyang has always denied having abducted Panjoy, but has admitted kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 2002, it allowed five to return to Japan, but claimed the rest had died.