It sticks in the craw to even consider paying ransom to induce North Korea into doing what the 1953 Armistice requires it to do, and return at least 560 South Korean prisoners of war the North is still believed to hold. One can only imagine what ghastly uses the regime might find for the money. Still, when you consider that for years, South Korea had paid the North billions and received nothing in return, getting at least some quo for all that quid would be a clear improvement. Those POW’s are in the last years of their lives. It’s no easy thing to say to them, or to their families, that they should never see each other again:
“We cannot sit around forever, just trying to come up with ways to have them returned to the country. These people are already very old and most of them will pass away within the next 10 years,” said Lee Mi-il, head of the Korean War Abductees Family Association.
Many South Koreans oppose giving any cash to the communist North out of fear that the money could aid the impoverished nation’s development of weapons of mass destruction or nuclear weapons.
Lee dismissed the fears not only as groundless, but also as absurd.
“We have been giving money to North Korea in exchange for various tourism projects to Kaesong and Mount Kumkang. This was hard currency paid not in exchange for people, but for tours that people really could have chosen not to take,” she said in a telephone interview with Yonhap News Agency. [Yonhap]
Seventy-six South Korean POW’s have managed to escape North Korea since the end of the war, including six this year. The big questions are how much the ransom payments would be, and whether the POW’s would be able to bring their families with them. Most South Korean POW’s who were released from prison were paroled into relatively isolated parts of North Korea and married local women. That would mean more adjustment difficulties for those families.