N.Korea kidnap victim's brother wants Pyongyang to come clean

N.Korea kidnap victim's brother wants Pyongyang to come clean
Romanian Gabriel Bumbea poses with a portrait of his sister Doina on the sideline of a session of the UN Human Rights Council on North Korea on March 17, 2014 in Geneva.

GENEVA - The elegant brunette gazes out from a black and white photograph, her shoulder-length hair tumbling onto a floral print dress.

The ageing picture is a heartrending trace of Doina Bumbea, a 28-year-old Romanian who was ensnared by North Korea's regime in 1978 and who never saw her family again.

It is a chilling reminder of the global reach of North Korea's programme of abducting foreign women allegedly to breed a pool of spies for the secretive Stalinist state.

"More than words, I want the facts," her brother Gabriel Bumbea, 47, said Monday as the UN Human Rights Council threw the spotlight on shocking violations by Pyongyang.

"My father died many years ago, in 1989. My mother is almost dead right now. My brother died nearly three months ago. So I'm the only one who has the will to fight, all alone," he told AFP.

A UN-mandate commission of inquiry estimates that 200,000 people from other countries have over the decades been abducted by the secretive Stalinist state or disappeared after going there willingly.

"These international enforced disappearances are unique in their intensity, scale and nature," the commission said in a no-holds-barred report released last month.

The overwhelming majority of the victims were South Koreans denied the right to return home after the 1950-1953 Korean War, or ethnic Koreans lured from Japan after 1959.

The regime's agents also grabbed Japanese - around 100, according to the commission - pressganging them as accent and culture teachers for its spies.

Little-known story

The fate of the Japanese has been a constant thorn in relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang, which has acknowledged 13 cases but has never disavowed the abductions.

Yet the story of Bumbea and kidnap victims of other nationalities was little known until Charles Jenkins, a 1965 US Army deserter who ended up stuck in North Korea, was allowed to leave with his Japanese abductee wife and their adult children in 2002.

Jenkins exposed a "spouse-sourcing" programme for at least four US deserters, in what the UN commission said was an attempt to avoid the birth of mixed-race Koreans, anathema to the regime.

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