SEOUL, Aug. 12 (Yonhap) -- A former South Korean prisoner of war (POW) who fled North Korea in 2008, 57 years after his capture during the Korean War, died earlier this week, a civic group here said Friday. He was 88 years old.
Lee Gyu-il died Monday, bringing the number of surviving former South Korean POWs to 14, according to the Transitional Justice Working Group.
Born in 1933, Lee volunteered to fight in the 1950-53 conflict in December 1950. Two months later, he was taken captive in the northeastern county of Hoengseong by Chinese communist forces deployed to aid North Korea.
In the North, Lee was forced into hard labor at a cooperative farm in the northeastern province of Ryanggang until his escape in May 2008 with his wife, daughter and two granddaughters.
After his return here, the late veteran turned himself into a vocal critic of the North Korean regime. He joined a damages suit against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2020.
In February this year, he met with then U.N. Special Rapporteur on North Korea's human rights situation Tomas Ojea Quintana to discuss the issue of South Korean POWs in the North.
His memorial altar has been set up at the Armed Forces Capital Hospital in Seongnam, just south of Seoul. He is to be laid to rest at the Seoul National Cemetery in southern Seoul on Sunday.
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