Former S. Korean POW who escaped from N. Korea dies at 92

Han Byung-soo, a former South Korean prisoner of war who was held in North Korea for five decades before escaping to his home country, has died at the age of 92, the defense ministry said Monday.

Han enlisted in the South Korean Army in 1951, when he was 20, and became a prisoner of war in June 1953, a month before the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

In North Korea, he was forced into hard labor in Tanchon, South Hamgyong Province, and escaped to South Korea via China in 2002, according to the ministry.

Tanchon is identified as the site of the Kumdok Laborers' District and is home to the Kumdok Mine.

South Korean POWs were in many cases forced to work as diggers or coal miners, according to South Korea's Ministry of Unification, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

Vice Defense Minister Shin Beom-chul paid his respects at the memorial altar for Han at a hospital in Ansan, 29 kilometers south of Seoul.

Han will be buried in Seoul National Cemetery in central Seoul on Tuesday.

Since the Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953, 80 South Korean POWs in North Korea have fled to their home country. With Han's death, the number of former POWs in South Korea fell to 11.

South Korea estimates that more than 500 POWs are still alive in the North as of late 2016. Still, North Korea denies holding any POWs.

Source: Yonhap News Agency