Hanchongryun leader allowed to visit North
Controversy stirred yesterday as news emerged that the government allowed the leader of a banned student organization to visit North Korea to attend a two-day inter-Korean student event being held there.
Song Hyo-won, a senior at Hongik University and the head of the student group Hanchongryun, obtained the Unification Ministry’s authorization to go to the Mount Kumgang resort for the event to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the June 15 inter-Korean summit, according to the government and the event’s preparatory committee. About 400 South Korean students and 100 North Korean students have convened at the scenic mountain.
The visit makes Ms. Song the first leader of the pro-North group to make an approved visit to the communist country. Until now, the government had been banning members of Hanchongryun from visiting the North, as the group has been ruled an anti-state entity by the Supreme Court.
“Ms. Song is visiting the North not as Hanchongryun’s leader, but as an individual,” said Kim Hong-jae, a spokesman at the Unification Ministry. “In the past, previous Hanchongryun leaders were wanted by the police, but Ms. Song is different.”
Ms. Song was elected the 13th leader of the group in January.
The Ministry of Justice had informed the Unification Ministry that 70 applicants seeking to attend the event were Hanchongryun members, but the Unification Ministry still approved the visit.
The Unification Ministry appeared to be concerned that the incident might threaten the recently restored inter-Korean ties.
by Lee Young-jong