Seoul vows tougher stance on alleged activist torture

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Seoul vows tougher stance on alleged activist torture

The South Korean government is expected to take a more aggressive approach toward China when handling the controversial diplomatic case of South Korean activist Kim Young-hwan, who was allegedly tortured by Chinese security officials.

“The statements made by Kim Young-hwan so far [on the torture he received] are very vivid and graphically detailed, while the Chinese side is simply denying the allegations [made by Kim] without presenting any specific explanations,” said a government official. “We cannot accept that.”

The official added, “We are considering ways to raise this matter as an agenda whenever there is a high-level talk or meeting between the two countries and will be continuously bringing up the issue with China.”

Kim and three other South Korean activists were arrested by Chinese authorities in March in Liaoning Province, northeastern China, on charges of endangering the country’s national security.

The four activists, who are known to have helped North Korean defectors in China, were released on July 20 after being detained in China for 114 days.

After arriving in Seoul, Kim has constantly said he was maltreated by Chinese security agents, receiving electric shock torture and being forced to stay awake.

He also said he was beaten in the face.

Following Kim’s allegations, criticism rose that Seoul’s Foreign Ministry was not adequately aggressive with China and didn’t do enough to protect its citizens.

Meanwhile, the Korean government’s decision to take a stronger stance comes after its latest meeting with its Chinese counterpart on Friday.

After hearing about the alleged torture, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry requested China conduct an internal investigation to verify what had really happened and also allow the South Korean Ambassador in Beijing to meet with a Chinese foreign ministry official.

For more than 10 days, the Chinese government had kept mum about the issue until it invited Ambassador Lee Kyu-hyung to meet with Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Ming last Friday.

During the meeting, China once again denied the allegations that it tortured the South Korean human rights activist.

“China treated [Kim] in a civilized and humanitarian manner based on relevant legal processes while respecting his legitimate rights,” Seoul’s Foreign Ministry quoted Zhang as saying during the meeting.

By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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