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By Ryan Pickrell
A former North Korean military man recently revealed how he and his comrades kidnapped foreigners for the reclusive regime, offering insight into one of the North’s many crimes against the international community.
North Korea is believed to have kidnapped thousands of foreigners. Kim Hun, a native of Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province, who defected in June 2012, abducted 160 foreign nationals for the late Kim Jong-il, reports Daily NK. “Kidnappings really are some of the worst forms of human rights abuses that the regime has perpetrated,” he said, looking back on his past crimes.
Kim served in a division of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), which is reportedly responsible for hijacking, kidnapping, sending spies and agents overseas, and conducting acts of terrorism abroad. He revealed that he and his comrades conducted abduction operations in “South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, some Southeast Asian countries, and a few others.”
North Korea regularly targeted fishermen because they were “exposed and vulnerable,” and they also tended to have knowledge of foreign military bases and missile launch sites. Executing the North’s “fishermen strategy” was considered an honor. “The act of taking a fisherman’s life was considered inconsequential,” Kim told reporters. “Instead, it was considered a proud act.”
“When a North Korean boarding party seizes a boat, they board it and assess the crew. Small and medium sized boats have anywhere from one to eight crew. The kidnappers pick the youngest one to kidnap and the remaining crew are all killed,” Kim said, explaining that the North preferred young victims because they tended to be more valuable and useful.
“Everyone on the boat except for a single person is killed on the spot. I undertook those tasks for 20 years. North Korea has undertaken these tasks for 40 years,” he told reporters. “Those kidnapped are thereafter forced to work for the regime, provide information, and become complicit in spy-related and terrorist activities, often against their country of birth.”
While Pyongyang focused on fishermen, the North did not limit its activities to those at sea.
“If you wandered into North Korea’s crosshairs, you could become a victim, even if your feet were firmly planted on the ground in a foreign country,” he told reporters, “Officers would say, ‘we need that person,’ and that person would be taken.”
North Korea began kidnapping foreign nationals in the 1960s. Most of the abductions took place from the 1960s to the 1980s. The exact number of people who disappeared at the hands of the regime is unknown.
“I constantly feel guilty and sorry for the people who have suffered because of the things that I did,” Kim said, remarking, “North Korea is truly hell on earth, the most uncivilized and barbaric country on the planet.”
For decades, North Korea engaged in criminal activities abroad, including the hijacking of multiple passenger jets, the deadly bombing of a commercial airliner, and the assassination of defectors and obvious enemies of the regime.
Pyongyang is believed to be behind the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, an outspoken critic of his younger brother, North Korean despot Kim Jong-un. He was murdered in Malaysia Monday.
Kim Hyun said that while the North Korean government is not actively sanctioning kidnappings, the brutal regime would not hesitate to start again if it proved beneficial.
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