July 04, 2022

North Korean victims of North Korean kidnappings

Pyongyang hasn’t just taken people from Japan or S.Korea – sometimes its own citizens are nabbed

On November 24, 1959 the Muscovites who were walking in the center of the Soviet capital, near the world famous Moscow Conservatory, bore witness to a rather unusual scene. Around 2 p.m. a group of menacing-looking Asian men attacked an Asian youngster. A short but violent fight followed, with exchanges in a language nobody understood, but sometimes the young man was loudly asking for help in Russian. Soon, though, he was overwhelmed by the attackers, who unceremoniously pushed him into a car with diplomatic plates, which promptly sped away.

The KGB learned about the event in no time (it was 1959 Moscow, after all), and soon a KGB officer, Colonel Lebedev, made a phone call to the Foreign Ministry to notify the diplomats that a major complication had just happened. North Korean agents had managed to locate and forcefully kidnap Yi Sang Gu, a post-graduate student at the Moscow School of Music, who had applied for asylum in the Soviet Union and sent a letter very critical of Kim's regime to the Korean Supreme People’s Assembly. By the time of his abduction Yi Sang Gu’s application was being considered, so the violent attack was a major violation of international law. It was especially outrageous that such a violation had been committed by the intelligence service of a country which, in spite of mounting tensions, was still seen as a younger brother of the Soviet Union.