“One day, a shaman received the spirit of my dead father-in-law and he said my husband would never come back, even if I did this ritual thousands of times,” said 82-year-old Kim Jeom-sun, the wife of one of those abducted.
During the North-South rapprochement after 2000, Ok Chul-soon applied to join a series of family reunions at a North Korean mountain resort, only to receive a Red Cross letter in 2005 that simply said: “Dead.”
Two years later, Kim’s sister-in-law, the wife of another of the village’s missing fishermen, took her own life by drinking herbicide after North Korea, again through the Red Cross, said he had died.
The villagers’ grief has not been helped by successive South Korean governments, with the wives and children of those taken by the North treated as Communist sympathizers. Police maintained a close eye on the villagers following the abductions and blocked access to jobs in public office.
“Other kids told my children: ‘You can’t do anything because your father’s a commie,’” mother of five Kim said.
“They cried every day,” she added.