DISAPPEARED PERSONS: South Korean Fishermen
A total of 3,824 South Koreans, 3,721 of them fishermen, have been abducted by North Korea since the Korean War Armistice was signed. South Korean fishing vessels have long been a favorite target of North Korean abduction efforts, since they are isolated and defenseless at sea.
One such fisherman was Lee Jhe-gun, who was abducted on May 29, 1970,
along with 27 other fishermen on the fishing boat Bongsan. Late that night, as the
crew was lowering the fishing nets, North Korean ships collided with the Bongsan,
making an explosive sound. North Korean commandos boarded the ship with
assault rifles, yelling, “Do you want to die? Get out!” The ships then towed the
Bongsan into North Korean territory. As the ship was being towed, many of the men
wept realizing they might never see home again.
Although many of these and other South Korean fishermen are often returned
after a detention of many months, as of 2010, there are still 506 South Koreans being
against South Korea.
Lim Kook-jae was a crew member on the South Korean fishing vessel Dong
Jin 27, which was captured by North Korea in January 1987 near Baek Ryung Island in the Yellow Sea. All of the crew members were abducted. Lim eventually ended up in Chongjin Political Prison Camp, Number 25, after repeatedly trying to escape into China. He reportedly died there in 2008.
There were also Japanese fishermen who were taken to North Korea. Almost four decades after the fact, a 1963 disappearance at sea would be found to have been a result of North Korean actions. Takeshi Terakoshi was thirteen when he disappeared from the waters off Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, on May 11, 1963. He was with two uncles, Soto-o, age 24, and Shoji, age 36, sailing on their fishing boat the Kiyomaru when another vessel collided with theirs. In 1998, a North Korean operative who defected told the story he heard in North Korea about this incident. He said the young Takeshi began loudly shouting at the other boat, which turned out to be a North Korean spy ship. One of the operatives on board, Oh Gu-ho, immediately shot and killed Shoji and ordered the other two to board the North Korean spy vessel. Soto-o is said to have died in North Korea. Terakoshi was seen again 24 years later his abduction, in 2002, after the summit meeting between Prime Minister Koizumi and Kim Jong-il, when he was one of the Japanese allowed to visit Japan. He claimed he had been “rescued” by North Korea and chose to return to North Korea.