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.

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