SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean man abducted by North Korea has escaped and returned home after 41 years, government officials and activists said Friday.
Jeon Wook-pyo, 68, was one of 25 crewmen on board two boats captured by North Korea in the Yellow Sea in 1972, according to Choi Sung-yung of the Abductees’ Family Union. Jeon, who fled North Korea in early August, is the only one of the crewmen to have escaped, Choi said.
Kim Hyung-suk, a spokesman with South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which is responsible for inter-Korean affairs, confirmed to reporters in a briefing Friday that the man had safely returned to the South but provided no other details.
South Korea estimates that more than 500 South Koreans have been kidnapped and detained by North Korea since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war.
Jeon underwent two weeks of investigation by government officials before being reunited with his family this month, Choi said.
North and South Korea have lately begun diplomatic talks after trading threats of war in March and April. They’re set to reopen operations at a jointly run industrial park, located just north of the heavily armed border separating the two Koreas, and plan reunions this month of families divided by the Korean War.