Elderly north korean spies trapped in south yearn for home gas definition wikipedia

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In this May 10, 2018, photo, former North Korean spy Seo Ok-yeol, 89, who spent 29 years in a prison, speaks during an interview at his home in Gwangju, South Korea. After decades trapped in lives they didn’t want in South Korea, nearly 20 elderly former North Korean spies are hoping the recent thaw in tensions between their countries will pave the way for their long-awaited return home. (AP Photo/ Hyung-jin Kim)

GWANGJU, South Korea (AP) — He’s spent nearly six decades trapped on enemy soil, surviving 29 years in a prison where he was tortured by South Korean guards before being released to a life of poverty and police surveillance. Now, 89 years old and bedridden with illness, former North Korean spy Seo Ok-yeol just wants to go home.

Seo is among 19 Cold War-era North Korean spies and guerrillas who have served their time in South Korean prison and are pushing to return to the North. Though they are officially free now, Seoul has refused to let them return as it seeks commitments from Pyongyang for the return of hundreds of South Koreans thought held there.

The Associated Press recently spoke with seven of the former spies, all men in their 80s and 90s who insist North Korea is their “ideological homeland.” Though they have seen past efforts to negotiate their return fall apart, the men are filled with renewed optimism after the leaders of the Koreas held a summit last month and pledged to resolve all humanitarian issues caused by their nations’ 70 years of division.

In 2000, during a previous thaw in North-South relations that also saw their leaders meet, South Korea sent back 63 North Korean spies and guerrillas. Dozens of other North Koreans who had served time in prison later applied for repatriation, but it never happened and some have since died.

Seo was born on a small island off the southwestern coast of the Korean Peninsula, when Japan was its colonial overlord. During the 1950-53 Korean War he volunteered for the North’s Korean People’s Army. After the war ended, he settled in North Korea, and eventually became a spy.

Kim Young-sik, who worked as a radio man on a North Korean spy ship before his 1962 capture, said he broke under torture in 1973. He said a fellow inmate tied him to a board, put a thin towel on his face and poured water from a kettle on his face.

Not all cracked. The 63 men repatriated in 2000 were chosen by Seoul because they never disavowed communism during their decades in prison. They received a heroes’ welcome in Pyongyang, with hundreds of thousands of people pouring into the streets.

A number of North Korean spies were released from prison after South Korea achieved democracy in the late 1980s following decades of authoritarian rule. The ex-convicts were given South Korean citizenship, but to this day some are required to report who they meet and what they talk about to police every two months. Most have eked out a living as manual laborers.

Communism, they say, is the only system that will take care of the Korean working classes. Some are proud that North Korea successfully punished colonial-era pro-Japanese collaborators while South Korea’s pro-U.S. government let them stay in power.

When the men entered prison, North Korea was wealthier than South Korea. They emerged into a world where South Korea was a regional economic power and a vibrant democracy, while the North struggled to recover from a devastating famine and has long been seen as a one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights.

GWANGJU, South Korea >> He’s spent nearly six decades trapped on enemy soil, surviving 29 years in a prison where he was tortured by South Korean guards before being released to a life of poverty and police surveillance. Now, 89 years old and bedridden with illness, former North Korean spy Seo Ok-yeol just wants to go home.

Seo is among 19 Cold War-era North Korean spies and guerrillas who have served their time in South Korean prison and are pushing to return to the North. Though they are officially free now, Seoul has refused to let them return as it seeks commitments from Pyongyang for the return of hundreds of South Koreans thought held there.

The Associated Press recently spoke with seven of the former spies, all men in their 80s and 90s who insist North Korea is their “ideological homeland.” Though they have seen past efforts to negotiate their return fall apart, the men are filled with renewed optimism after the leaders of the Koreas held a summit last month and pledged to resolve all humanitarian issues caused by their nations’ 70 years of division.

In 2000, during a previous thaw in North-South relations that also saw their leaders meet, South Korea sent back 63 North Korean spies and guerrillas. Dozens of other North Koreans who had served time in prison later applied for repatriation, but it never happened and some have since died.

Seo was born on a small island off the southwestern coast of the Korean Peninsula, when Japan was its colonial overlord. During the 1950-53 Korean War he volunteered for the North’s Korean People’s Army. After the war ended, he settled in North Korea, and eventually became a spy.

Kim Young-sik, who worked as a radio man on a North Korean spy ship before his 1962 capture, said he broke under torture in 1973. He said a fellow inmate tied him to a board, put a thin towel on his face and poured water from a kettle on his face.

Not all cracked. The 63 men repatriated in 2000 were chosen by Seoul because they never disavowed communism during their decades in prison. They received a heroes’ welcome in Pyongyang, with hundreds of thousands of people pouring into the streets.

A number of North Korean spies were released from prison after South Korea achieved democracy in the late 1980s following decades of authoritarian rule. The ex-convicts were given South Korean citizenship, but to this day some are required to report who they meet and what they talk about to police every two months. Most have eked out a living as manual laborers.

Communism, they say, is the only system that will take care of the Korean working classes. Some are proud that North Korea successfully punished colonial-era pro-Japanese collaborators while South Korea’s pro-U.S. government let them stay in power.

When the men entered prison, North Korea was wealthier than South Korea. They emerged into a world where South Korea was a regional economic power and a vibrant democracy, while the North struggled to recover from a devastating famine and has long been seen as a one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights.