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Chung Soon-duk, Korean rebel, 71

SEOUL -- Chung Soon-duk, whose bloody capture in 1963 marked the end of South Korea's prolonged battles against communist guerrillas, died of a heart attack Thursday in an area hospital. She was 71

and had been in a coma for two weeks after suffering a stroke last month.

Ms. Chung, the wife of a peasant farmer, followed her husband into the Chiri Mountains in southwestern South Korea, to become a communist guerrilla shortly after the Korean War broke out with North Korea's invasion of the South in June 1950.

The couple were among thousands of leftist farmers who believed in North Korea's promised "liberation" from landlords and took up arms in Chiri's thick forests and jagged ravines. They kept fighting, long after North Korean troops retreated and even after the Korean War ended in 1953 with an uneasy truce.

Her husband died in battle in 1952. By 1955, most of the Chiri Mountain guerrillas had been killed or surrendered, but Ms. Chung and others continued raiding police stations and villages, even though they had no communication with North Korea.

Ms. Chung's life on the run ended in a shootout with police on Nov. 12, 1963. She was wounded in the gunbattle and lost her right leg.

With her arrest, South Korea finally declared an end to drawn-out operations against peasant "partisans" who fought the pro-US government in the South.

After 23 years in jail, Ms. Chung was released on parole in 1985, when she signed a statement disavowing her ideology. Out of prison, she was a disabled outcast, disowned by her South Korean family for her tainted past. She held only menial jobs.

In a rare interview, she told The Associated Press in August that she had signed the statement repudiating communism in hopes of getting better medical care and a reduced sentence.

She still believed in communism and wanted to be repatriated to North Korea, "my ideological hometown." To her last day, she stuck to her wartime ideological tenets, calling South Korea "a colony of US imperialists."

In September 2000, South Korea repatriated to the North 63 former communist guerrillas and spies who had spent up to 45 years in solitary confinement but refused to give up their ideology. Ms. Chung was excluded.

It was virtually impossible for Ms. Chung to defect to the North by herself because she was under constant police surveillance until she was immobilized by a stroke in 1999. She lived in a hospital, using a wheelchair, after that.

Just hours after her death, a report said North Korea's Red Cross Society considered Ms. Chung's case as "proof that South Korea is the worst violator of human rights" and demanded that she be repatriated. The statement was carried on South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

South Korea said the case had been closed. It demands that North Korea return thousands of South Koreans held against their will in the North.

Mingahyop, a group supporting former communist guerrillas and political dissidents, said Ms. Chung would be cremated. The ashes will be kept at a Buddhist temple near the border with North Korea "until they can be sent to the North according to her wish," said Kim Gap-bong, a Mingahyop official.

"All my life, I have been a unification warrior who struggled to free the fatherland from the Americans," she had said in August.

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