Woo Yong-gak

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Woo Yong Gak (born 29 November 1929 n Nyongbyon County)[1] is a former North Korean commando who was released from incarceration in South Korea on 25 February 1999.[2]

He served 40 years, 7 months and 13 days in prison as one of South Korea's unconverted long-term prisoners.[3] It has also been said that he "spent 41 years in solitary confinement".[4][5] He returned to North Korea in September 2000.

Capture[edit]

Woo was captured during a North Korean commando raid in South Korea's east coast waters in 1958 while he participated as one of the raiders.[6]

Imprisonment[edit]

Purpose[edit]

After his conviction of espionage for North Korea, Woo was sentenced to life imprisonment.[7] South Korea claimed that he had been leading a group of spies.[8] Throughout his imprisonment he refused to sign an oath of obedience to South Korea's National Security Law, which bans the display or expression of any pro-North Korean sentiment.[9]

Torture allegation[edit]

A report by Amnesty International records his claim of torture in an underground facility after his arrest and a forced confession.[10]

Solitary confinement[edit]

South Korean law specifies solitary confinement for spies, even if they pose no physical threat.[11] Woo was held in solitary confinement in a 12-by-12 foot cell since his capture aboard a North Korean boat.[12] The terms of his imprisonment permitted 30 minutes of daily exercise with other prisoners.[9] In 1998, he was said to be "missing all his teeth because of years of torture, poor food, and inadequate medical treatment".[13] In 1999, prior to his release, he was reported to be suffering from a degree of muscular paralysis resulting from a stroke[14]

Release and repatriation[edit]

Woo was among 17 long-term detainees released under a wider amnesty to mark President Kim Dae-jung's first year in office.[15] As a 70-year-old man, he walked free from the gates of Daejeon prison.[16] It was proposed that he be allowed to return to North Korea, where he had a wife and son,[17] in exchange for South Korean prisoners of war.[18] He returned to North Korea, though not in exchange for any imprisoned South Koreans, in early September 2000,[19][20] and was immediately awarded the National Reunification Prize.[21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Unconverted Long-Term Prisoners to Be Repatriated to N. Korea on Sep. 2", The People's Korea, Chongryon (146), 2000-08-25 
  2. ^ https://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F40817F934590C768EDDAB0894D1494D81&n=Top%2fReference%2fTimes%20Topics%2fSubjects%2fP%2fPolitical%20Prisoners South Korea Frees A 41-Year Captive, Reuters, 25 February 1999
  3. ^ https://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0914F939590C7A8EDDAD0894D1494D81&n=Top%2fReference%2fTimes%20Topics%2fSubjects%2fP%2fPolitical%20Prisoners Seoul Journal; Out at Last, Prisoner 3514 Catches Up on 40 Years, 29 April 1999, by Nicholas D. Kristof (New York Times)
  4. ^ "Seoul Frees Political Prisoners". CBS News. 25 February 1999. 
  5. ^ "Solitary: Tough test of survival instinct". BBC News. 25 February 1999. 
  6. ^ http://www.iht.com/articles/1998/03/14/kor.t_7.php Kim's Decree Benefits Millions; Some Dissidents Are Left Out : South Korea Grants Sweeping Amnesty by Don Kirk, International Herald Tribune, 14 March 1998
  7. ^ http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGASA250151998?open&of=ENG-394 Amnesty International, 1998 South Korea country report
  8. ^ http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4196/is_19990226/ai_n10487064 North Korean ends 41 years in solitary, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 26 February 1999
  9. ^ a b http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/286070.stm February 1999 BBC Report
  10. ^ http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGASA250151998?open&of=ENG-394 1998 Amnesty International South Korea country report
  11. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/285875.stm Happy to see the light, BBC News, 25 February 1999
  12. ^ http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/1999/02/25/world/main36530.shtml Seoul Frees Political Prisoners, CBS News, 1999
  13. ^ http://www.indianexpress.com/res/web/pIe/ie/daily/19980314/07350704.html Indianexpress.com report of 14 March 1998 from Seoul
  14. ^ https://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aireport/ar99/asa25.htm 1999 Amnesty International report for South Korea
  15. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/285875.stm Happy to see the light, BBC News, 25 February 1999
  16. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/285875.stm February 1999 BBC News Report
  17. ^ http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4196/is_19990226/ai_n10487064 North Korean ends 41 years in solitary, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 26 February 1999
  18. ^ "Happy to see the light". BBC News. 25 February 1999. 
  19. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/907307.stm Korean Communists Go Home, BBC News Report, 2 September 2000
  20. ^ https://fas.org/news/dprk/2000/dprk-000901b.htm 1 September 2000 correspondent report by Alisha Ryu, Federation of American scientists report for the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea
  21. ^ "National reunification prizes awarded to unconverted long-term prisoners", Korean Central News Agency, 2000-09-04, retrieved 2012-09-13 

External links[edit]

  • [1] BBC News report of 25 February 1999, including face image