June 28, 2006

South Korean family holds tearful reunion in North

By Jack Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - The mother of a South Korean at the
center of a high-profile kidnapping case met her son for the
first time in 28 years in North Korea on Wednesday for a
reunion steeped in tears and political tension.

The South Korean abductee, Kim Young-nam, 44, is believed
to have been kidnapped by North Korean agents decades ago when
he was a teenager.

He is thought to have later married Megumi Yokota, a
Japanese abducted by North Korea whose case has become a focus
for Japan's anger at Pyongyang for snatching its citizens.

Kim's mother, Choi Kye-wol, broke down in tears at the
Mount Kumgang Resort as she wrapped her arms around her son and
said, "My Young-nam, my Young-nam."

Initial South Korean pool video reports showed Kim with a
teenage girl, who the reports said was Hye-gyong, the daughter
Kim is supposed to have had with Yokota. Kim also came with his
new wife and a son by her, reports said.

In Japan, Yokota's mother Sakie, has told Reuters she
thought it was dangerous to go to North Korea, which might use
the visit for propaganda, but she sympathized with Kim's

North Korea experts have said the North would not have
agreed to the reunion unless its officials were sure of what
Kim would say to South Korean reporters and his family about
the circumstances of his abduction and life in the communist

Yokota was 13 when North Korean agents kidnapped her in
1977. Kim went missing in 1978 when he was 16.

Pyongyang has said Yokota married a North Korean man in
1986 and gave birth to a daughter, who is now 18 and lives in
the North. It also said Yokota committed suicide in 1994 while
being treated for depression.

Japan says DNA testing indicates it is likely that Kim
fathered Yokota's child.

Tokyo has made a priority of the abductee issue, saying its
resolution is a condition for improving ties with Pyongyang.
North Korea has admitted to abducting 13 Japanese in the 1970s
and 1980s to help train its spies.

Yokota's mother recently met President Bush.

Tokyo, Washington and Seoul have increased pressure on
North Korea to account for the abductees. Earlier this month,
Pyongyang said it had located Kim Young-nam.

South Korea has opted for quiet diplomacy in an attempt to
gather information about the more than 1,000 South Korean
civilian abductees and Korean War prisoners believed still to
be alive in the North.

(With additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz)