October 06, 2015 09:42
North Korea on Monday sent home a South Korean student through the border truce village of Panmunjom, the Unification Ministry said.
Joo Won-moon (21), a New York University student, was freed after six months in detention on charges of illegal entry.
The release of Joo, whose story has caused some bafflement, comes ahead of the 70th anniversary of the North’s Workers Party on Saturday.
It is unclear whether it was part of a general show of magnanimity at this festive time or a specific move to mend fences with the South.
Joo, who lives in New York with his family and has U.S. green card, was caught by North Korean border guards crossing the Apnok River into Sinuiju from Dandong, China.
In a carefully scripted interview with CNN, he later said he wanted to get a "better understanding" of the North.
He denied finding any trace of human rights abuses or oppressive rule in the North and urged the U.S. and the South Korea to give up their "hostile attitude" toward the North.
His treatment in the North differs markedly from the fate of three other South Koreans, Kim Jung-wook, Kim Kuk-gi, and Choi Chun-gil, who remain in detention for spying -- shorthand for proselytizing on behalf of evangelical Christianity.
Unlike Joo they were sentenced to hard labor. Seoul urged Pyongyang to release them immediately.
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