The Associated Press SEOUL (AP) — North Korea’s release of three American detainees offers some hope for the relatives of hundreds of South Koreans abducted over the years by the North. But the families are also frustrated, feeling they have been forgotten amid a global diplomatic push to resolve a nuclear standoff with Pyongyang
The families say their decades-long struggle to bring home their loved ones has been ignored by Pyongyang and successive governments in Seoul. Current South Korean President Moon Jae In, they say, has sidelined human rights issues as he reaches out to the North.
Still, Wednesday’s release of the Americans raises the possibility that their cases will be addressed in future talks with the North, including a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump that could happen in the coming weeks.
“My only hope is with President Trump,” said Hwang In Cheol, the son of a broadcast journalist whose flight was hijacked by a North Korean operative nearly 50 years ago. “I hope he puts the nuclear problem and human rights issue on the same table and solves them at once.”
According to South Korean government figures, North Korea abducted at least 3,835 South Koreans after the 1950-53 Korean War, mostly from the 1950s to the 1970s when Seoul says the North systematically kidnapped South Koreans and other foreigners to train them for propaganda and spying.
While most were eventually released or successfully escaped back to the South, 516 never returned, as of 2015, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry. It is unclear how many are alive.