Ex-U.S. Envoy to S.Korea Visits Pyongyang

A former U.S. ambassador to South Korea arrived in Pyongyang on Monday afternoon, at the head of a non-governmental delegation, AP reported.

Donald Gregg (87) was accompanied by four members of the Pacific Century Institute, the American NGO he leads. Arriving at Pyongyang Airport via Beijing, Gregg said he was "very glad" to visit Pyongyang again and aims for dialogue.

His last visit came eight years ago.

He was accompanied by Lynn Turk, a former officer at the U.S. State Department, who said the invitation came from the North's Foreign Ministry.

Pacific Century Institute chairman Donald Gregg (center) and his party arrive at Pyongyang Airport in Pyongyang on Monday. /AP-Newsis Pacific Century Institute chairman Donald Gregg (center) and his party arrive at Pyongyang Airport in Pyongyang on Monday. /AP-Newsis

There is speculation that their visit is aimed at winning the release of a American citizen Kenneth Bae, who has been detained in North Korea for more than a year and has been sentenced to hard labor for unspecified crimes against the North Korean state.

Bae recently returned to a labor camp after staying a prison hospital for various ailments.

The U.S. had been discussing sending Robert King, the special envoy for North Korean human rights, to the North to try and negotiate Bae's release, but the regime abruptly cancelled the trip on Sunday, a day before King was set to arrive.

But a South Korean government official said Gregg's visit is probably unrelated to Bae's release since his work with the State Department is all in the past.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 11, 2014 09:39 KST