N. Korea frees detained S. Korean student: Seoul
South Korea’s government says a South Korean student from New York University has been released by North Korea after about six months of detention.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Monday that North Korea repatriated Won Moon Joo, 21, at the border village of Panmunjom. Joo had been arrested for crossing the Chinese border into North Korea.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said it will investigate whether Joo violated the country’s anti-North Korean security law, which prohibits unapproved travel to the North.
Joo has permanent resident status in the United States. The exact motivation for his entrance to North Korea wasn’t clear.
North Korea often uses detainees in attempts to win political concessions and aid from rivals Seoul and Washington, and a South Korean analyst said Pyongyang may have calculated that since Joo’s alleged crime was relatively minor, his release might boost the impoverished, authoritarian country’s international im- age and lead to more investment and tourism chances.
Last month, Joo was presented to the media in Pyongyang and said he had not been able to contact his family but wanted them to know he was healthy. For most of the 30-minute appearance, Joo read a prepared — and probably coached — speech praising the country, its government and people. Other foreigners who have been detained in the North have said after their release that they were coached closely on what to say in such statements.
Joo is one of four South Koreans known to be held in North Korea. The other three are accused of more serious espionage acts or attempts to establish underground Christian churches in the country.
The release comes amid speculation that North Korea may not go ahead with an earlier threat to launch what it calls satellites aboard long- range rockets to mark this week’s 70th birthday of its ruling party.
A launch would deepen an international standoff. The U.S., South Korea and their allies say North Korea’s launches are dis- guised tests of its long-range missile technology that are banned by the United Nations. Recent commercial satellite imagery, however, showed no signs of preparations at the North’s main launch site. South Korean defense officials also have seen no indication of an imminent launch.
The launch plans earlier cast doubt over a possible easing in animosity between the Koreas. In late August they agreed to resume the reunions of families separated by the Korean War after ending a military standoff caused by a mine blast on the border that Seoul blamed on the North. The blast seriously injured two South Korean soldiers.
This photo taken on Saturday, Oct. 3 and released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Monday, Oct. 5 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, relaxing with executives during a choral concert by service personnel and people at the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station.