May 11, 2018 11:11
North Korea said it will "consider releasing" six South Koreans who remain detained there, Cheong Wa Dae said Thursday. The promise came in response to a request from Seoul.
President Moon Jae-in asked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "to quickly release six South Koreans held in North Korea" when they met on the demilitarized zone on April 27, Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Yoon Young-chan said in a statement.
Cheong Wa Dae initially did not say how the North responded, but now it says Kim told Moon "he will consider freeing them. We're currently waiting for a response from Pyongyang."
The North has held the six on espionage charges since 2013, when they were caught proselytizing in the North Korea-China border region.
The statement came after North Korea on Wednesday released three American citizens of South Korean descent and sent them home with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
One obstacle to the release of the six South Koreans could be that North Korea still smarts from the defection of a large group of North Korean staff from a restaurant in China in 2016, which it billed an abduction.
"The North hasn't set any conditions yet," a government official said.
The issue could come up again when Moon and Kim first talk on a new hotline set up between their offices. It is possible that Moon and Kim "will talk on the hotline a little earlier than was originally expected," a Cheong Wa Dae official said.
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