Rep not approved for Kaesong trip

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Rep not approved for Kaesong trip

North Korea approved the visit of a group of South Korean lawmakers to the reopened Kaesong Industrial Complex, except for Representative Cho Myung-chul, the defector-turned-lawmaker who used to be a professor of economics at Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung University.

“North Korea agreed with the list of the members and the schedule regarding the visit of lawmakers of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee to the Kaesong Industrial Complex,” a Unification Ministry official told reporters Saturday. “But they notified us that Representative Cho Myung-chul has been denied entry.”

On Oct. 24, North Korea accepted Seoul’s request for the visit so South Korean lawmakers could check the condition of the complex after it was closed for more than five months due to frosty inter-Korean relations.

A day after, the Unification Ministry sent a list of 50 South Koreans, including 24 lawmakers and other staff members. Cho was one of the 24 lawmakers.

Now that Cho has been denied entry, the Assembly will send 49 people, according to the Unification Ministry.

Cho, a graduate from Kim Il Sung University, became a professor in its economics department.

In 1994, he defected and served in a series of high-ranking government posts in South Korea, such as the head of the Institute for Unification Education under the Ministry of Unification.

He became the first defector-turned-lawmaker by earning a proportional representative seat for the ruling Saenuri Party during the April 2012 legislative election.

“I was not disappointed [by the rejection],” Cho told Yonhap News Agency. “I don’t have to beg North Korea for the entry. If I do that, it would hurt the dignity of our National Assembly.”

“I am proof that North Korea has not changed its strategy for South Korean affairs,” Cho added.

North Korea routinely condemns defectors, calling them traitors, and Cho has been a particular thorn as he publicly denounces North Korea’s human rights abuses.

In July 2012, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, a mouthpiece of the Pyongyang regime, issued a statement that targeted four civic activists for human rights in the North, including Cho, and called them “the figures to be punished.”

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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