After 41 Years, Kidnapped S. Korean Escapes North

Chun Wook-pyo was one of 25 fishermen captured in 1972

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 13, 2013 7:09 AM CDT

(Newser) – In 1972, more than two dozen South Korean fisherman were kidnapped by the North while sailing the Yellow Sea. Forty-one years later, Chun Wook-pyo, 68, has made it back home, South Korea today confirmed. He's "the only crewman from those two boats to have escaped," says a rep for the Seoul-based Abductees' Family Union, per the Daily Mail. And he's one of thousands of fishermen believed to have been taken by the North across decades, though Pyongyang denies it. Some 450 have never returned home, reports the New York Times.

The escape, first reported last month, is rare; the Times reports that eight fisherman are previously said to have made it back since 2000. And the ordeal doesn't necessarily end upon reaching home: According to the Mail, South Korean officials are typically suspicious of escapees like Chun, fearing they could have been indoctrinated by the North and set free as a spy. They may also be concerned that the person claiming to be Chun could in fact be a North Korean agent. Chun was reportedly questioned for two weeks upon his arrival in the South before rejoining his family. While very few additional details were given, the rep tells Bloomberg that Chun worked as a truck driver in North Korea. (In other North Korea news, white steam has been spotted at a reactor there; what that means here.)

A South Korean man adjusts the national flags on the military wire fence at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War.
A South Korean man adjusts the national flags on the military wire fence at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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