August 14, 2009 11:15
North Korea on Thursday released a South Korean staffer at the Kaesong Industrial Complex 136 days after he was suddenly arrested on March 30. The release of Yu Seong-jin, which came during a visit to North Korea by Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun, is welcome news not only for his family but for all South Koreans.
We will soon find out what Hyun discussed during her trip to North Korea when she returns to South Korea. Hyundai Asan has been the main South Korean business partner of North Korea after agreeing nine years ago to operate the Kaesong Industrial Complex with the North's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee. Asan is also the operator of package tours to Mt. Kumgang, which have been halted for more than a year. The results of Hyun's trip to the North will determine the future of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the tours.
But Yu's release does not mean that all the problems have been solved. North and South Korea have many issues that need to be addressed so that incidents like the one involving Yu do not happen again. The fundamental problem is that South Korea remains helpless if North Korea chooses not to abide by an agreement signed by the two sides in 2004 regarding entry and sojourn within the Kaesong Industrial Complex. South Korea strives to abide by these rules under the principles of good will and sincerity, but North Korea has demonstrated its willingness to ignore them at whim.
Article 10, Clause 3 of the agreement contains the guarantee of personal safety, stating clearly that the basic human rights of a South Korean under investigation must be guaranteed. But during the 136 days Yu was detained, North Korean authorities did not allow a South Korean official or attorney to meet him. Article 12, Clause 1 of the agreement concerning cooperation and exchange of information stipulates that North and South Korea must notify each other of information necessary for the fulfillment of the terms of the agreement and respond to requests for information by the other side. But North Korean authorities refused to state the specific reason that led to Yu's arrest and did not tell the South where he was being detained.
Article 10, Clause 4 of the agreement states that if a South Korean in the Kaesong Industrial Complex violates North Korean law, the North will investigate the matter and inform South Korea of the details of the violation and deal with the offense with a warning, fine or deportation. But the North Korea "investigated" Yu for 136 days without giving a detailed explanation or account.
The two sides must immediately look for ways to resolve problems in the implementation of the agreement and come up with any supplementary measures necessary. Discussions must take place on the scope of Article 10, Clause 2, which concerns "grave violations." The guarantee of an individual's safety is the most fundamental factor among many that determine the success or failure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The project cannot succeed unless North Korea resolves fears of sudden arrest and indefinite detention among South Korean workers there.
Yu may have been released, but the four crew of the fishing boat 800 Yeonan, which strayed into North Korean territorial waters in the East Sea on July 30 due to instrument failure, are still being detained by North Korean authorities. The North must send them back as soon as possible, abiding by a 20-year customary convention of returning fishermen who have accidentally crossed over into the other side's territorial waters.
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