Freed S. Korean worker returns home after 137-day detention in DPRK
www.chinaview.cn 2009-08-14 00:09:13   Print
Yu Seong-jin was freed Thursday from DPRK after being detained for 137 days.
Yu crossed the inter-Korean border later at 08:30 p.m. (1130 GMT) to head for home.
The release may lead to a breakthrough in deadlocked inter-Korean relations.

    by Na Haejung

    SEOUL, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- A South Korean worker was freed on Thursday from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) after being detained in the territory for 137 days.

Yoo Seong-jin (C), a worker who was detained by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), speaks to the media upon his arrival at the South Korean Customs, Immigration and Quarantine office, south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul, August 13, 2009, after he crossed the border. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
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    CHRONOLOGY

    Yu Seong-jin, a 44-year-old engineer of Hyundai Asan Corp., was seized by the DPRK authorities on Mar. 30 for publicly slandering its political regime, together with alluring a female DPRK worker to defect from the nation.

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 S. Korea's presidential office expresses relief over worker's release

 DPRK frees detained S Korean worker

    Yu had been working in the joint industrial complex at the DPRK's border town of Kaesong before being detained by the DPRK authorities.

    Since late March, the South Korean government has made several attempts, including three rounds of government-level talks, to push for his release.

    During the three-time negotiations, held on June 11, June 19, and July 2, the South Korean government repeatedly requested the release of the detainee, which was rejected by the DPRK.

    The DPRK, meanwhile, announced that it deepened investigations on Yu, saying his actions were in serious breach of its law.

    The DPRK authorities also kept silent on details of Yu's status, including his health conditions and whereabouts.

    Despite the detainee issue, in addition to the DPRK's rocket launch, missile attempts, and nuclear test, stalled the inter-Korean relations, the South Korean government stuck to its firm stance with respect to pushing for his release.

    President Lee in early August said that Seoul is doing everything in its power to secure the release of the detained worker.

    On Aug. 10, a few days after former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited the DPRK and won the release of two female journalists, Hyundai Group's Chief Hyun Jung-eun left for Pyongyang in pursuit of Yu's release.

    The visit was made amid growing expectations that the DPRK would free the worker as the previous journalist case hinted at the DPRK's softened policy directions, local Yonhap News reported.

    Hyun was originally planned to stay in Pyongyang for three days, which was later extended twice for "unknown" reasons, but finally saw the release of his employee on late Thursday.

    Handed over to Hyundai Asan at 05:10 p.m. (0810 GMT), Yu crossed the inter-Korean border later at 08:30 p.m. (1130 GMT) to head for home.

    Upon his return, Yu received brief medical check-ups, and "doesn't seem to have particular problems in his health," South Korea's Unification Ministry Chun Hae-sung said.

    There has been no charges related to Yu's release, Chun added.

Yoo Seong-jin (C), a worker who was detained by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), makes his way between the media upon his arrival at the South Korean Customs, Immigration and Quarantine office, south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul, August 13, 2009, after he crossed the border.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
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    RESPONSES IN S. KOREAN SOCIETY

    South Korea's presidential office on Thursday expressed relief over a South Korean worker's release after being detained in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) for 137 days.

    "It may be a bit too late, but we are relieved that Yu is finally returning to his family," Lee Dong-kwan, spokesman for the presidential office, said in a written briefing.

    Political parties, although showing differences towards the government's current policy line towards the DPRK, unanimously welcomed Yu's release.

    Yu's family and coworkers were also relieved by the news of Yu's release, with his father telling reporters, "I thank all those who have worked for his release so far."

    Hyundai Asan Corp.'s officials were delighted by his release, especially as it came while the group chief was staying in Pyongyang, according to Yonhap.

    The Kaesong Industrial Council, which represents South Korean businesses investing in Kaesong, also expressed hopes that Yu's return may improve the deteriorated business situations at the complex.

    "We hope this incident will help melt the frozen inter-Korean relations and revive the Kaesong industrial park," the council said in a statement.

    INTER-KOREAN RELATIONS IN THE AFTERMATH

    According to multiple local media and experts, the release may lead to a breakthrough in deadlocked inter-Korean relations.

    The incident, which came only a few days after the release of the two U.S. journalists, can be interpreted as the DPRK's intentions of further dialogue, South Korea's TV channel SBS said.

    "The DPRK may be aiming at creating an inter-Korean or U.S.-DPRK dialogue mood by taking more softened postures," Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korea Studies, said.

    The South Korean government may expand non-governmental organizations' humanitarian aids to the nation, which it re-approved early this month, SBS said.

    The working-level talks between two Koreas, which have been suspended since July 2, are expected to be resumed as one of the main issues has been settled, the media added.

    The presidential office, however, said it will maintain its current policy towards the DPRK.

    While the opposition Democratic Party called for an adjustment in the policy direction, the ruling Grand National Party condemned the DPRK supported the government's "consistent, principle-based" policy.

    Many experts are saying that it may be hard to expect a melt-down in inter-Korean relations as problems such as a South Korean boat captured by the DPRK are still lingering, SBS reported.

Yoo Seong-jin (C), a worker who was detained by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), speaks to the media upon his arrival at the South Korean Customs, Immigration and Quarantine office, south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul, August 13, 2009, after he crossed the border. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
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Editor: Yan
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