Unification Ministry releases video of N. Korean fishers’ repatriation

Posted on : 2022-07-19 16:50 KST Modified on : 2022-07-19 16:50 KST
The Democratic Party denounced the Yoon administration’s probe into the event as a distraction from the livelihood crisis faced by the public
Still from the video released by the MOU of the repatriation of two North Korean fishers at Panmunjom in 2019.
Still from the video released by the MOU of the repatriation of two North Korean fishers at Panmunjom in 2019.

The South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) submitted a video to the National Assembly on Monday showing the repatriation of two North Korean fishers who murdered their fellow crew members.

The ministry also disclosed the footage to the press. Taken on a cell phone by an MOU employee who was working at Panmunjom at the time of the repatriation on Nov. 7, 2019, the video was made public after an examination of the relevant laws.

The video disclosed by the MOU was 3 minutes and 56 seconds long. The voices of the two individuals being repatriated cannot be heard in it.

At one point, a chaotic scene is captured as the fishers pull away in an apparent show of their unwillingness to return to the North, at which point they are prodded forward across the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) with shouts by South Korean soldiers.

One of the two fishers is seen crossing the MDL with little apparent resistance, while the other is seen putting up some resistance, collapsing to his knees near the MDL and pounding his head against the ground.

The MOU explained, “Photographs that we had taken at the time of the defecting fishers’ forced repatriation and were keeping as a record were provided to the National Assembly and press on July 12, but after it was noticed that the photographs showed one of the staff filming a video, the National Assembly asked for the video to be checked and submitted.”

“We subsequently inquired with the staff who were present at the time as to whether they had any video footage that they had taken personally,” it added.

The MOU’s decision to disclose the footage comes on the heels of a July 11 statement reversing its position from three years earlier and maintaining that there were “clearly incorrect aspects” to the repatriation, as well as its July 12 disclosure of 10 still photographs showing the repatriation process at Panmunjom.

In effect, the ministry was providing assistance with “evidence” in response to President Yoon Suk-yeol’s orders to conduct what amounts to an intensive investigation of his predecessor Moon Jae-in’s administration. Yoon also referred to the repatriation as a “crime against humanity.”

On his way to work Monday, Yoon emphasized the importance of a no-stone-unturned investigation, saying, “I have nothing to add except to reiterate the principle that all state affairs must be conducted in accordance with the Constitution and law.”

In response to the MOU’s disclosure of the video, the Democratic Party said it was “pathetic for them to fixate on something that has no effect.”

Meeting with reporters after a meeting of the “action committee for politically retaliatory investigations” at the National Assembly on Monday afternoon, Democratic Party interim leader Woo Sang-ho said the release was “intended to play on the public’s emotions by showing a provocative scene.”

“At a time when people are struggling to make ends meet, the public does not like it when the administration fixates on things like this,” he stressed.

He went on to say that the essence of the case was about “sending back violent offenders who murdered 16 people based on the determination that they could not coexist with the people of the Republic of Korea.”

“This is a case where the people’s judgment has been passed,” he continued.

“The key ‘investigation’ area that the Yoon Suk-yeol administration should be focusing on now is an investigation into people’s livelihoods,” he urged.

“The more the administration fixates on political retaliation, the further it will fall,” he warns.

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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