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N. Korea detains Korean-American man for 5 months

Posted April. 14, 2011 00:22,   


North Korea has detained a Korean-American businessman since November last year, the U.S. government said Tuesday.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. is urging the North to release the man on humanitarian grounds, adding that Washington is seeking consular access to the detainee through the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.

Toner did not elaborate on the man`s identity or how he ended up in detention. Quoting anonymous sources, however, CNN said the man is a Korean-American businessman and that he had a visa to enter North Korea.

A South Korean government official said Wednesday that the Korean American was doing business in the North’s special economic zone of Rason and is believed to have been arrested for missionary activities. Pyongyang considers missionary work by foreigners a subversive act.

Experts say Washington made his detention public ahead of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s visit to Pyongyang because of progress made in negotiations with North Korea for the Korean-American`s release.

According to a South Korean Foreign Ministry official, Carter could bring the prisoner out of the North. In late August last year, the former president helped secure the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, an American who was arrested in the North in January last year.

This is the fourth time for the North to detain an American since the launch of the Obama administration. Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were arrested in March 2009 and released in August.

In December 2009, Korean American Robert Park was detained in the North and released in February last year.

zeitung@donga.com yhchoi65@donga.com