North Korea yesterday confirmed that a missing South Korean man allegedly kidnapped decades ago is living in North Korea, and said that it would allow him to meet with his South Korean mother this month.
South Korean authorities believe that Kim Young-nam was abducted by agents from North Korea and forced to live there. North Korea's official Central News Agency didn't confirm this, but said the country "succeeded in confirming his whereabouts."
South Korea's Ministry of Unification hailed North Korea's move as a "future-looking attitude" and said it would make efforts to address the issue of other South Korean abductees "in a silent manner."
"To apply pressure and insult the other party could make it more difficult to resolve the abductee issue by inviting its backlash," Cho Yong-nam, director general for the ministry's Social and Cultural Exchanges Bureau, told a news briefing.
The highly unusual announcement from North Korea came about two weeks after South Korean officials said that DNA evidence showed that Kim had likely fathered a girl living in North Korea.
Kim is among about 490 South Korean civilians believed held in the communist state after being kidnapped. North Korea claims they voluntarily defected.
The North didn't say in yesterday's announcement how Kim got into the country.
"The north side decided to arrange his reunion with his mother in the South side," during a round of inter-Korean family reunions later this month at the North's Diamond Mountain resort, the CNA report said, saying North Korea was motivated by "humanitarianism."
"I am glad," Kim's 78-year-old mother, Choi Gye-wol, told a news conference after the announcement.
She said she would hug her son when she sees him and ask "how much pain" he has been through.
The June 19-30 reunion -- the 14th face-to-face meeting since a landmark summit of the two Koreas' leaders in 2000 -- will bring together some 2,000 families separated since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, said the South Korean Red Cross.
Kim disappeared from a beach on South Korea's southwest coast in 1978 when he was 16. His family thought he had drowned or died somehow, but learned later from Seoul that he was believed to have been abducted by North Korean agents.
His case drew attention following reports that he married Megumi Yokota, a Japanese woman who the North has admitted it kidnapped, and that he fathered a daughter with her.
South Korea and Japan conducted DNA tests on samples taken from Yokota's daughter in North Korea and Kim's mother in South Korea to confirm the suspicion and found that there is a high possibility that the two have a blood relationship.
Japanese officials took the samples from the daughter, Kim Hae-kyong, 18, during a visit to North Korea in 2002 and provided them to South Korea after the Japanese tests.
The result contrasted with North Korea's claim that Yokota's husband is a North Korean man named Kim Chol-jun.
Yesterday's report from North Korea didn't mention if Kim Yong-nam was married.
In 2002, North Korea acknowledged abducting 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies, and allowed five to return home. Pyong-yang said the other eight, including Yokota, were dead. Many in Japan believe she is still alive and living in North Korea.
Japan's government said it would work closely with South Korea to resolve the abduction problem.