North Korea released Won-moon Joo, a student at New York University on Monday. Joo is a South Korean national and a permanent resident of the United States. He was held prisoner by the North Korean government since April.
In May, Joo told CNN that he was arrested by North Korean soldiers after crossing into North Korea from China. According to him, he wanted to be arrested to make a statement and hoped his action could help improve the relations between North and South Korea.
He said, “I thought that by my entrance to DPKR (abbreviation for the official name of North Korea) illegally, I acknowledge— I though that some great event could happen and hopefully that event could have good effects on the relations” between the two Koreas.
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Joo was one of the four South Korean nationals detained in Noth Korea. The three other persons were accused if espionage or attempts to establish underground Christian churches in the country.
Prior to his release, North Korea presented Joo to the media. He said he had no contact with his family, and he wanted them to know that he was healthy. During his appearance, Joo read a prepared statement praising the country, its people, and government.
According to other foreigners, who were detained in the country, North Korean officials told them what to say during the media appearance prior to their release.
North Korea deported Joo as a “humanitarian measure”
North Korea deported Joo at the border village of Panmunjom as a “humanitarian measure,” according to the country’s state media. South Korean officials confirmed his release.
In a statement, the South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it was relieved by Joos freedom. The Ministry also urged Pyongyang to release the three other detained South Koreans.
In June, North Korea’s highest court sentenced two of the South Korean to hard labor for the life. They were accused of spring. The court said the punishment serves as a lesson for those who conspire with Washington and Seoul.
According to South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, it will investigate whether Joo violated the country’s national security law, which prohibits unapproved travel to the North.
North Korea usually uses detainees as a compromise to obtain aid from South Korea and Washington. A South Korean analyst suggested that Pyongyang decided to release Joo because its crime was minor and believed that its decision could help improve its international image and boost its tourism.
North and South Korea recently agreed to improve relations
In August, the two Koreas agreed to improve relations after ending a tense standoff that almost became a military conflict. Both parties continued negotiations, which led to an agreement for a series of reunions of families separated by the Korean War.
A recent report indicated that 100 separated families will be united on October 20-26 at Mount Kumgang, a coastal resort in North Korea. According to South Korean records, more than 66,000 people are still on the waiting list for a reunion.
Last month, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said resolving the North Korean nuclear issue is critical and should be accorded the highest priority to maintaining world peace.
She emphasized that addressing the nuclear weapons program of North Korea is the “last remaining non-proliferation challenge” of the international community. She added that South Korea is willing to work with the international community to actively support North Korea in developing its economy, but it must give up its nuclear ambitions and choose openness and cooperation.
North Korea already expressed strong opposition to nuclear disarmament. The country’s spokesperson previously stated that Pyongyang was not interested at all in any negotiations that would compel it to freeze or dismantle its nuclear weapons unilaterally.
Meanwhile, Russia previously stated that it does not recognize North Korea as a nuclear state, and opposed its nuclear program. Russia’s envoy to South Korea Alexander Timonin said Moscow will never justify Pyongyang’s nuclear missiles or its nuclear program.
Timonin emphasized that North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un needs to maintain his father’s promise to abandon the nuclear program under the Joint Statement on September 19, 2005. He also needs to comply with the UN resolutions prohibiting Pyongyang from launching long-range missiles.