The United Nations' working group on enforced disappearances said Friday that its search list for South Koreans believed to have been abducted by North Korea has been growing.
At a press conference in Seoul, the international panel said the reclusive country remains steadfastly unresponsive to requests for information to determine the fate of such people.
As of last year, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances was reviewing 53 cases of South Koreans suspected of being taken by North Korea during and after the Korean War (1950-53).
The expert group had formally asked the North Korean government to provide information on 41 of the total cases, but the communist country did not come up with an answer sufficient to verify the fates of those missing, according to the group's report submitted to the U.N.'s Human Rights Council in July.
Since the report last year, there has been an increase in the number of such missing South Korean cases whose fates are unknown, the five-member panel's chairwoman Houria Es-Slami told reporters here.
Es-Slami said she could not disclose exactly how many until the group's annual report to be submitted later this year, but called the increase "alarmingly high."
The panel has also called on the U.N. Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court for its "organized and large-scale" human rights violations regarding such enforced disappearances, although little progress has been made so far on the matter, she said.
Ariel Dulitzky, one of the panel members, said the group even asked Pyongyang to allow them access to the country for an on-site visit last year, but the country remains unresponsive.
"Sadly up to today, we could not verify any single case" because of North Korea's lack of cooperation on the issue, he noted.
The meeting with reporters followed the group's five-day consultation held in Seoul this week where the experts reviewed petitions seeking to determine the fate or whereabouts of those who were reportedly abducted by the North and other countries.
The Seoul government has said about 3,000 South Korean soldiers and civilians were confirmed to have been kidnapped by the North during and after the war.
North Korea, however, categorically rejects such accusations, saying they are just slander aimed at toppling the country's regime. (Yonhap)