South Korea has asked North Korea to free an arrested South Korean individual for illegally entering North Korea.
Pyongyang’s state media said on Saturday that North Korea detained Won Moon Joo for unlawfully entering the country by crossing the Amnok River from the Chinese border town of Dandong on April 22.
Joo is a permanent resident of the United States and has admitted that he violated the law by his illegal entry into North Korea. According to the North Korean Central News Agency, Joo, 21, is a student at New York University (NYU) and lives in Tenafly, New Jersey.
Joo was studying at NYU’s Stern School of Business but was not taking classes in the current semester, according to a statement issued by the university.
John Beckman, NYU spokesman, said, “When we heard the news reports, NYU got in touch with the student’s family to express our concerns over his welfare and to convey our support. His well-being is in our thoughts and prayers.”
The university has been in contact with the U.S. State Department and South Korean embassy, he added.
According to The Huffington Post, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said it was “very regrettable” that North Korea had arrested a South Korean national without informing or giving prior explanation to the South Korean government and Joo’s family.
South Korea is urging North Korea to release Joo immediately, spokesperson Lim Byeong Cheol said.
It couldn’t be confirmed why Joo tried to cross the border into North Korea.
This isn’t the first time a South Korean has been detained for unlawfully trying to gain entrance into North Korea. Many Americans and other nationals have also been arrested in the past for what North Korea calls alleged espionage and other hostile acts. News conferences were conducted in Pyongyang where accused foreigners admitted to their unlawful acts and made statements to retract after their release.
North Korea arrested two South Koreans for alleged espionage in March. Another individual, accused for establishing underground churches in North Korea, was detained late 2013 and was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor.
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