South Korean abducted by North Korea returns home after 41 years

North Korean soldiers watch south at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone separating North Korea from South Korea, north of Seoul, 11 September 2013 The Koreas remain technically at war after the 1950-53 conflict

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A South Korean man who was abducted by North Korea 41 years ago has managed to return home, officials in Seoul say.

Jeon Wook-pyo, now 68, was among 25 crewmen aboard two fishing boats captured by North Korea in the Yellow Sea in 1972.

He escaped North Korea in August and returned to South Korea this month, Yonhap news agency reported.

The North and South remain technically at war after the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice and not a peace treaty.

A spokesman from South Korea's Unification Ministry, which oversees affairs between the two Koreas, confirmed the man's return but did not offer additional details.

Mr Jeon made his way to South Korea via an undisclosed third country, from which he issued an appeal for help to South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Yonhap news agency said, citing an unidentified government official.

No information was given about the other crewmen on the boats.

Training spies

South Korean abductees

  • Most are fishermen seized near the maritime border between the two nations
  • A Korean Airlines plane flight YS-11 was hijacked and flown to North Korea in 1969. North Korea freed 39 passengers on the plane, but 11 crew members and passengers were not returned
  • Film director Shin Sang-ok and his wife Choe Eun-hui were abducted in the late 1970s. They managed to escape in 1986
  • Students Lee Min-kyo and Choi Seung-min went missing from a beach in South Korea in 1977. They were reportedly abducted by North Korea and made to instruct its agents
  • In 1987, 12 crewmen were seized from South Korea's Dongjin 27 fishing vessel
  • Pastor Kim Dong-shik, who helped North Korean defectors escape to the South, was abducted near the China-North Korea border in 2000. Pastor Ahn Seung-woon disappeared in similar circumstances in 1995

Mr Jeon was currently under investigation in the South and would be allowed to return to his family after that was complete, the official was quoted by Yonhap as saying.

There is a great deal of suspicion surrounding South Koreans who return from the North, the BBC's Lucy Williamson reports from Seoul.

According to South Korea, about 500 of its citizens - most of them fishermen - have been abducted by North Korea since the Korean War.

Those kidnapped were often used for propaganda activities or intelligence gathering, Yonhap said.

One of the most well-known abduction cases involved a film director and his actress wife, who were abducted by North Korea in the late 1970s.

Late film director Shin Sang-ok and his wife, Choe Eun-hui, managed to escape in 1986 while attending a film festival in Vienna.

North Korea is also known to have abducted a number of foreign nationals, including several Japanese civilians in the 1970-80s to train spies.

In 2002, former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi managed to secure the release of five Japanese abductees.

Pyongyang says other known Japanese abductees are dead, but Japan is not convinced and wants more information. The issue remains a highly sensitive one between the two nations.

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