North Korea may have abducted 180,000 people over the last 60 years, according to a new report by a US-based human rights group.
The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea says both the scale and reach of Pyongyang’s abduction programme is far greater than previously thought.
It said it involves citizens from 14 countries.
The allegations are almost impossible to verify without free access to North Korea.
The majority are said to be South Korean prisoners of war, forcibly moved to North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War.
But abduction by the North Korean government can come in many ways, the report says, and in many different places.
It cites the cases of a Japanese college student and his girlfriend snatched from a beach in Japan by North Korean agents; more than 3,000 South Korean fishermen forcibly towed into North Korean waters; and students in European cities – including London, it says – lured to the secretive state with the promise of jobs and then denied permission to leave.
In all, the report estimates more than 180,000 people from 14 different countries have been taken by North Korea, in a bid to train its intelligence agents and – more recently – to warn Chinese nationals living along the border against helping its people escape.
Once inside the country, the report says, many abductees are tortured, forced to marry and to work for the regime against their will.
In 2002, Pyongyang released a handful of Japanese nationals, in response to Japan’s questions about its missing people.
But since then, it has not confirmed the presence of any more abductees inside the country.
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