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S. Korea officially recognizes wartime kidnap victims

South Korea acknowledged Tuesday that 55 people were abducted by North Korea during the Korean War six decades ago, marking the first official recognition of kidnap victims.

The announcement, intended to disclose the truth about kidnap victims during the 1950-53 war and restore their honor, came nearly eight months after South Korea set up a committee to identify its citizens kidnapped by North Korea.

The committee headed by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik released the names and other personal information of the 55 abductees, which included politicians, police officers and public officials.

Committee spokesman Choi Jung-sik said the government does not have much information on the fate of kidnap victims, ruling out any immediate compensation scheme for their family members in the South.

The figure represents just a fraction of about 100,000 South Korean civilians who are estimated to have been kidnapped by the North during the war, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

Separately, South Korea estimates about 500 South Korean soldiers taken prisoner during the war and about 517 civilians kidnapped after the war are still alive in the communist country.

South Korea has called for the repatriation of its nationals, but Pyongyang denies the kidnappings, claiming any South Koreans in the North came to North Korea voluntarily.

The committee vowed to shed light on other wartime civilian abductees by 2013.

The development may anger North Korea amid lingering tensions on the Korean Peninsula over the North's deadly attacks on the South last year that killed 50 South Koreans. North Korea has a track record of kidnapping other nationals.

(Yonhap News)

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