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High-profile defector wins passport

May 04,2007
A prominent North Korean defector yesterday won a lawsuit against the Korean government allowing him to get a passport which had been refused, analysts said, due to fears that his criticism of the North might undermine inter-Korean relations.
Kim Dok-hong filed the suit against the Foreign Ministry in 2005 after he was denied a passport several times, starting in 2003.
The 68-year-old former senior official of the North’s ruling Workers Party wants to visit the United States to speak about human rights conditions in the North. The government cited concerns about Kim’s safety.
Overturning a lower court ruling, the Seoul High Court ordered the ministry to renounce its decision made in January of last year not to issue the passport.
According to the Passport Act, the government can withhold the issuance of a passport to people who they believe might hurt national interests or the public’s security.
Kim defected to the South in 1997 along with Hwang Jang-yop, 84, the highest-ranking North Korean official to defect to Seoul. They are among the most vocal critics of the Pyongyang regime.
Unlike Kim, Hwang was allowed to visit the United States in 2003 after Washington agreed to provide elaborate security arrangements for him.
Hwang was secretary of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party before his 1997 defection.


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