Release Kaesong detainee

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Release Kaesong detainee

The detention of a South Korean worker in the Kaesong Industrial Complex has now dragged on into its 67th day. The government and Hyundai Asan say they have raised the issue daily through the Kaesong Industrial Complex Management Commission, but Pyongyang has not yet made any response, except to announce twice that it was investigating the case.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s treatment of two female American journalists it detained has been markedly different. The two journalists, whom the North held a trial for yesterday, have been staying in a hotel, not a prison, and were allowed to talk with their families in the United States by telephone.

This is outrageous. North Korea has frequently talked about the self-reliance of Korean nationals but it detains a South Korean citizen and won’t even inform his government whether he is alive or not. Even though North Korea is notorious for human rights violations, the treatment of the worker, named Yoo, cannot be tolerated. It ignores international customary norms and the agreed-upon terms by the South and the North for handling each other’s citizens. North Korea is a state but what is the difference between the North and a terrorist group that abducts a person in broad daylight and holds him hostage?

In North Korea, a person who is charged with espionage or an act of opposing the communist revolution is reportedly arrested by the top intelligence agency, investigated for up to a year, shot without trial or imprisoned as a political prisoner. The person is not allowed to see his family and the family is not even informed of the person’s arrest. In the end, the family is also locked away as political prisoners. Until now, Yoo has been treated in the same way as a North Korean who has committed treachery.

The South Korean government’s response has been meek. Apart from the Reunification Ministry, no other government agencies have tackled the issue. In 2007 when Korean citizens were kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the government paid a huge sum of money to bring them home, despite international criticism. What are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the National Intelligence Service and the Blue House doing now?

We urge the government to respond to the case more actively and assertively. In all international meetings that North Korea attends, our government must highlight Yoo’s case and put pressure on Pyongyang. At the very least, Seoul can conduct negotiations in secret and pay a ransom to bring him home.
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