DATE=9/4/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=KOREAN PRISONERS (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-266120 BYLINE=ANDREW WOOD DATELINE=SEOUL CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: South Korean President Kim Dae-jung says he believes there are up to 800 South Koreans being held in neighboring North Korea and that many of them may have been there since the Korean War of the 1950's. The statement comes at time when relations between the two Korea's are improving. Andrew Wood reports from the South Korean capital, Seoul. TEXT: In a nationwide television address, President Kim said North Korea is holding South Koreans against their will. Mr. Kim said about half of them are prisoners of war captured between 1950 and 1953. Mr. Kim says the rest of the South Koreans being held are fishermen and people abducted by the North. His comments come at a sensitive time. For the past two-and-a-half years, Mr. Kim has tried to lure the North Korea out of its isolation with what he calls a "sunshine policy" of engagement -- with some success. It led to his historic summit in June with the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il. Last month, some elderly Koreans from North and South crossed the heavily fortified and sealed border to meet relatives they had not seen for up to half a century. And, in recent days, South Korea allowed 63 people convicted of spying for or supporting Pyongyang to return home. But critics in South Korea say President Kim is giving away too much, too soon. They say he should have driven a harder bargain with the North. North Korea has long denied its holding any South Koreans. When similar claims were made by the Japanese, some years ago, North Koreans walked out of talks aimed at establishing diplomatic relations between Pyongyang and Tokyo. President Kim's statement on imprisoned South Koreans may signal a tougher negotiating stance. North Korea needs help for its famine-stricken economy. The pressure may be increasing for it make more concessions. NEB/HK/AW/GC/WD 04-Sep-2000 07:59 AM LOC (04-Sep-2000 1159 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
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