North Korea to Release Detained N.Y.U. Student, South Says

Photo
Joo Won-moon, 21, a student at N.Y.U., was detained this spring for illegally entering North Korea.

Credit
Kyodo, via Reuters

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea agreed to return a South Korean student from New York University who has been held since April, officials here said on Monday.

The student, Joo Won-moon, 21, was scheduled to be handed over to the South Korean authorities at the border village of Panmunjom on Monday afternoon, the Unification Ministry of South Korea said in a statement, citing a notification from the North’s Red Cross Society.

In early May, North Korea said that it had arrested Mr. Joo on April 22 for illegally entering the country from China. It since arranged a series of interviews or news conferences in Pyongyang where Mr. Joo told foreign news media that the North Korean authorities had treated him well.

Once returned to the South, Mr. Joo will most likely face an interrogation on criminal charges of violating the National Security Law, which bans South Koreans from visiting the North without government permission.

In an interview with CNN that was broadcast in May, Mr. Joo, a South Korean citizen who has permanent resident status in the United States, said that he had hoped to bring about better relations between the two Koreas by illegally entering the reclusive North to a certain arrest. South Korea has repeatedly called for his release.

On Monday, it welcomed the North’s decision to return Mr. Joo. But it again demanded that the North release three other South Koreans who had been held far longer than Mr. Joo, including a missionary sentenced to hard labor for life.

Repatriation of South Koreans from the North is not unprecedented. In September last year, it returned a South Korean man who had fled to the North to escape his economic difficulties. In 2013, Pyongyang also sent back six South Korean men who had entered the North illegally for similar reasons.

Over the past two decades, 28,000 North Koreans have defected to the South, fleeing hunger and political repression in their homeland.

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