Lee witnessed the execution of her father and brotherWhen the Korean Battle resulted in 1953, about 50,000 South Korean prisoners of warfare had been saved within the North. Many had been compelled into labouring jobs in opposition to their will. Some had been killed. Now their youngsters are preventing for recognition, writes BBC Korea’s Subin Kim.Regardless of how arduous she tries, Lee can’t recall what occurred after three pictures had been fired by the executioners who killed her father and brother. It was three a long time in the past, when Lee was in her thirties.She does bear in mind what occurred simply earlier than. Safety officers had dragged her to a stadium in a distant village in North Korea referred to as Aoji. She was compelled to take a seat below a wood bridge, ready for one thing – she knew not what – to occur.A crowd swelled and a truck pulled up, and two individuals had been escorted off the truck. It was her father and brother.”They tied them to stakes, calling them traitors of the nation, spies and reactionaries,” Lee informed the BBC in an interview just lately. That is the second her reminiscence falters. “I believe I used to be screaming,” she mentioned. “My jaw was dislocated. A neighbour took me house to repair my jaw.”The forgotten prisonersLee’s father was considered one of about 50,000 former prisoners of warfare who had been saved within the North on the finish of the Korean warfare. The previous prisoners had been regrouped in opposition to their will into North Korean military items, and compelled to work on reconstruction tasks or in mining for the remainder of their lives.When the armistice was signed, on 27 July 1953, the South Korean troopers had assumed there would quickly be a prisoner alternate and they’d be despatched house. However a month earlier than the armistice, South Korean President Syngman Rhee unilaterally freed greater than 25,000 North Korean prisoners, with the intention to sabotage the ceasefire. He wished UN forces to assist him reunite the nation below South Korea. Many consider the transfer made the repatriation of South Korean prisoners tougher.The North solely despatched again a small fraction of the prisoners it had taken.Quickly South Korea largely forgot the boys. In years since, three South Korean presidents have met North Korean leaders, however the prisoners of warfare had been by no means on the agenda.Story continuesCritics say Syngman Rhee was flawed to free North Korean soldiersIn the North, the Lee household had been seen as unhealthy inventory. Lee’s father was born within the South and had fought alongside United Nations forces within the Korean Battle, in opposition to the North – a black mark in opposition to him. The household’s low social standing relegated them to backbreaking jobs and dim prospects. Each Lee’s father and brother labored at coal mines, the place deadly accidents had been an everyday prevalence.Lee’s father harboured a dream of going house someday, when the nation was reunited once more. After work, he would inform his youngsters tales of his youth. At occasions, he would prod his youngsters to flee to the South. “There might be a medal for me, and you’ll be handled as youngsters of a hero,” he would say.However Lee’s brother, whereas ingesting with mates someday, let slip the issues their father would say. One of many mates reported it to the authorities. In a matter of months, Lee’s father and brother had been useless.In 2004, Lee managed to defect to South Korea. It was then that she realised her father’s error – his nation didn’t see him as a hero. Little had been achieved to assist the outdated prisoners of warfare get house.Choi scolded her father after being rejected to review at a universityThe troopers saved again in North Korea suffered. They had been seen as enemies of the state, males who had fought within the “puppet military”, and assigned to the bottom rank of North Korean social caste of “songbun”.Such standing was hereditary, so their youngsters weren’t allowed to obtain increased schooling or the liberty to decide on their occupation.Choi was a star scholar, however her dream of going to a college was unattainable due to her father’s standing. She as soon as yelled at her father, “You reactionary scum! Why do not you return to your nation?”Her father did not yell again, however mentioned to her dejectedly that their nation was too weak to repatriate them. Eight years in the past, Choi deserted her household and fled to the South.”My father wished to return right here,” she mentioned. “I wished to return to the place the individual I beloved probably the most in my complete life wished to return however by no means might. That is why I deserted my son, my daughter and my husband.”Choi’s father is now useless. And in South Korea, on paper, she has no father, as a result of official paperwork say he died in motion through the warfare.Son retrieved her father’s stays from North KoreaBringing my father’s bones homeSon Myeong-hwa nonetheless clearly remembers her father’s final phrases on his deathbed practically 40 years in the past. “In the event you get to go to the South, you have to carry my bones with you and bury me the place I used to be born.”Son’s father was a South Korean soldier who was from Gimhae, some 18km (11 miles) away from Busan. Within the North he was compelled to work in coal mines and a logging manufacturing facility for many years and solely allowed to go house 10 days earlier than he died of most cancers.He informed Son: “It’s so bitter to die right here with out ever seeing my dad and mom once more. Would not or not it’s good to be buried there?”Son defected in 2005. But it surely took her eight years to get her father’s stays out of North Korea. She requested her siblings to dig up her father’s stays and convey them to a dealer in China. Three suitcases had been wanted. Two of Son’s mates got here alongside, but it surely was Son who carried her father’s cranium.Son protested for greater than a 12 months for the popularity of her father’s standing as an unrepatriated soldier, and ultimately she was capable of bury his stays on the nationwide cemetery in 2015.”I believed that I lastly fulfilled my obligation as a daughter,” she mentioned. “But it surely breaks my coronary heart after I consider him having had his final breath there.”Son found later that the household paid a horrible value for the burial. Her siblings within the North had been despatched to political prisons.Son now heads the Korean Battle POW Household Affiliation, a bunch that fights for higher remedy of roughly 110 households of South Korean troopers who by no means got here house.Via a DNA take a look at, Son was capable of show that she was her father’s daughter – which was important for her to file for his unpaid wages from South Korea. Even when they handle to flee to the South, the kids of prisoners of warfare are usually not formally recognised, and lots of the unrepatriated prisoners had been thought-about useless, or discharged through the warfare, or just lacking.Solely a handful of prisoners of warfare who managed to flee to the South ever obtained unpaid wages, and those that died in captivity within the North weren’t eligible for any compensation.In January, Son and her legal professionals filed a constitutional courtroom case, arguing that the households of the prisoners who died within the North had been handled unfairly and that the federal government had achieved nothing to repatriate the prisoners, making it chargeable for the prisoners who by no means got here again.”We had been so unhappy to be born the kids of the prisoners, and it was much more painful to be ignored even after coming to South Korea,” Son mentioned.”If we won’t get well our fathers’ honour, the horrendous lives of the prisoners of the warfare and their youngsters might be all forgotten.”Some names had been modified to guard contributors’ security. Illustrations by Davies Surya.