South Korea Urged to Call for Release of Abducted Pastor

The conservative, right-wing political party in South Korea urged the government on Tuesday to press North Korea for the release of a South Korean pastor who was abducted by North Korean agents in China more than four years ago.

“The North Korean government must apologize and immediately release [Rev. Kim Dong-shik],” said Rev. Park Kye-dong of the Grand National Party (GNP), as reported by The Korea Times. Park requested the Seoul government to take all steps possible to push for the release of Kim—a missionary to China who was assisting North Korean refugees in Yanji, Jilin Province at the time of his disappearance.

The GNP’s call comes shortly after the Seoul Central District Public Prosecutors Office said it had indicted on Saturday an ethnic Korean man who had played a key role in the kidnapping of Kim in January 2000.

During the hearing at the Seoul District Court on Saturday, at which charges were brought against Yoo Young-hwa in relation to Kim’s kidnapping, 35-year-old Yoo admitted to being an agent of North Korea's State Safety and Security Agency.

“He frequently went back and forth between China and North Korea, and was tasked with catching and forcefully repatriating North Korean defectors and the go-betweens helping them in China," a public security official from the Seoul Central District Public Prosecutors' Office stated.

The official also said that Yoo received instructions and operational funds from the communist North and was known to have colluded in a score of abductions similar to that of Kim’s.

“The suspect was trained in Pyongyang,”' a prosecutor told The Korea Times. “Nearly 10 North Korean agents and other accomplices are believed to have conspired to abduct Kim.” Investigators believe some of the 10 may be currently in South Korea.

As of now, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification reports that there is not enough sufficient evidence of Kim's abduction to bring up the issue with the North, however the prosecutors' office said it is investigating the case in cooperation with officials from the National Intelligence Service (NIS).

Officials say a total of 468 cases of abducted South Koreans had been reported to the government as of December this year.