Oct. 11 (UPI) — Three South Korean fishermen who were abducted to the North more than four decades ago have been absolved of espionage charges.
Park Chun-hwan, 71, Oh Gyeong-tae and Heo Tae-geun were kidnapped in the ’60s while fishing for drums, or croakers, South Korean newspaper Segye Ilbo reported Wednesday.
After their release and return to the South, the three men were arrested on charges of spying for Pyongyang.
The fishermen, residents of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, were imprisoned and physically tortured during the term of former South Korean dictator Park Chung Hee.
Oh and Heo are being absolved of charges posthumously. Their surviving family members attended the retrial, according to the report.
Park, who is still alive, was informed of the not guilty verdict in a recent retrial at Jeonju District Court on Wednesday.
According to the South Korean court, “police investigators illegally detained defendants, tortured, assaulted and threatened them at the time of the incident.”
The defendants were forced to make false confessions, and “admitted” to being spies, praising the North Korean regime and funneling classified South Korean state secrets to the North.
Park was also forced to make a false confession regarding a friend as a possible suspect, which subsequently led to an 8-month prison sentence for the man who was later found to be innocent.
Park was born in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, and was aboard the Young Chang Ho captained by Oh in May 1968.
The fishing expedition was disrupted near Yeonpyeong Island when they were detained by North Korea coast guard and jailed for four months.
Park, Oh and Heo were sentenced to as much as 1 year and 6 months in prison.