[코리아헤럴드=김아린 기자] 북한에 억류됐다 사망한 미국인 대학생 오토 웜비어 씨의 부모가 서해에서 북한군에 피살된 해양수산부 공무원 이대준 씨의 친형 이래진 씨를 자택으로 초청했다.
웜비어 씨의 부친 프레드 웜비어 씨는 2일 코리아헤럴드에 “신디(오토 웜비어 씨의 모친)와 나는 이래진 씨를 우리 집으로 맞이하고 싶다(would welcome Mr. Lee in our home)”면서 “우리는 그를 지지하며 그가 자랑스럽다(support him and are proud of him)”고 말했다.
오는 13일 부터 6일 동안 방미가 예정된 이씨는 앞서 웜비어 측에 만남을 제안했다. 이에 대해 웜비어 측은 자택 초청으로 화답했다. 이씨와 웜비어 측의 만남은 이달 17일 이뤄질 예정이다.
이씨는 워싱턴에서 열리는 ‘북한자유이주민의 인권을 위한 국제의원연맹’ 총회 참석 차 6일간 미국에 머물 예정이다. 이달 15일 열릴 국제의원연맹 총회에는 엘리자베스 살몬 유엔 북한인권 특별보고관과 하태경 국민의힘 의원 등이 연설한다.
웜비어 부모는 이대준 씨 피살 사건이 알려진 직후인 2020년 10월, 공개 서한을 통해 “연대를 약속한다(pledge solidarity)”며 이씨에 대한 지지 의견을 보냈다.
[Exclusive] Fred and Cindy Warmbier to meet with brother of South Korean official killed by North Korean troops
By Kim Arin
Fred and Cindy Warmbier, whose son Otto died in 2017 after he was held captive in North Korea, and Lee Rae-jin, the older brother of a South Korean fisheries official who was fatally shot by North Korean troops at sea in 2020, plan to meet next week.
In an exchange with The Korea Herald, Fred Warmbier said Friday he and his wife, Cindy, “would be happy to meet with” Lee, and that they “would welcome Mr. Lee in (their) home.” They added that they “support him and are proud of him.”
The response from the Warmbiers came after Lee reached out for a meeting ahead of his six-day US trip, from Sept. 13-19.
On meeting the Warmbiers, Lee told The Korea Herald over the weekend he has “looked to them for guidance on what he could do” and that he has “wanted to thank them in person.”
“By joining voices, I hope to make a bigger impact together,” he said. “I have incredible respect for what Mr. and Mrs. Warmbier have been doing over the years to pressure North Korea.”
The Warmbiers sent a strong message of support to Lee two years ago, a few weeks after his brother died.
In an October 2020 statement, the Warmbiers said they “pledged solidarity with” Lee and thanked him for his “courage in standing up to the Kim regime.”
Lee said in response that he extends his support and solidarity to the Warmbier family, and that he was “incredibly thankful” for their voicing support of his family.
“Words are not going to make North Korea budge. We have to find ways to make them take responsibility for their actions. The Warmbier family has shown that is possible,” he had said in an interview with The Korea Herald at the time.
Earlier this year in April, Lee’s family sued the North Korean government for damages, following the steps taken by the Warmbiers. Lee’s family is also in a Constitutional Court battle against Moon Jae-in’s Cheong Wa Dae over disclosure of information on the killing.
Lee is visiting the US to speak at the Sept. 15 biennial convention of the International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights in Washington.
Speaking with The Korea Herald, Lee said he hoped his message at the convention would “help rally support from the international community in holding North Korea accountable for its brutalities.”
Lee said on his trip he would also seek to deliver a letter to the United Nations headquarters in New York and to US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
“I will never stop speaking out about what happened to my younger brother. No unarmed, innocent civilian entering North Korean territories should ever have something like this happen to them, and I will continue to remind the world of what North Korea has done,” he said.
Lee’s brother, Dae-jun, was shot and then burned by North Korean soldiers who found him near the inter-Korean sea border after he went missing during a patrol duty.