President-Elect Lee Myung Bak’s transition team is speaking more about its plans to finally bring home about 560 prisoners of war it believes North Korea is still holding, in violation of the 1953 Armistice agreement.
South Korea may seek help from the international community in pressing North Korea to return South Korean prisoners of war, the Defense Ministry said Saturday. North Korea has so far balked at South Korean requests to return POWs, saying it has never held any South Korean citizens against their will.
“The government plans to refer the issue of POWs to the international community so it could influence North Korea to return the prisoners,” the ministry said in a recently released book on the prisoners. The government, in particular, will ask the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to adopt a resolution on the return, the book said. [Yonhap]
Recently, several of those POW’s have escaped from North Korea, despite getting no help from their own government. This could be a game-changer, and not because of anything that will or will not happen in the U.N. (The U.N.? Solve anything? When pigs fly and Mormons rap.)
But as a reader e-mails, when South Korea starts to push for the return of its prisoners of war, it will be a diplomatic tipping point. It’s a given that North Korea will be furious about this, which must terrify our State Department. Congressional conservatives bristled when State tested the waters for de-listing North Korea as a terror sponsor despite Japanese concerns about its abducted citizens. Not even State could refuse to help South Korea push this resolution at the U.N., however; after all, those ROK soldiers fought next to Americans. For obvious reasons, Japan will embrace South Korea’s shift, and there’s reason to hope that South Korea could finally realize how many interests it shares with Japan (especially if you happen to be really, really stoned).
I once went to hear two escaped South Korean POW’s describe the conditions they suffered in the North, and I retold their story here. One POW’s wife, who waited faithfully for her husband for 50 years, braved Chinese police and oxygen-thieving South Korean diplomats to rescue him.
There’s also another encouraging rumor — that South Korea could join John Bolton’s brainchild, the Proliferation Security Initiative. For its part, Lee’s transition team is saying “not yet,” but that the idea is under consideration for the longer term. Recall that the United States had asked Roh’s government to join the PSI, and after a long Hamlet act, Roh declined due to fears that it would — all together, now — antagonize North Korea.
Hat tip to a reader.