A South Korean executive is free and back home after more than four
months of isolated captivity in North Korea. His release follows a
four-day mission by the corporate chairwoman who employs him, and whose
company has invested massively into the North's impoverished economy.
South Korean executive Yu
Seong-jin crossed the heavily armed inter-Korean border, making contact
with fellow South Korean citizens for the first time in more than four
In a brief statement, Yu said he was happy to be back,
and offered thanks to the South Korean government, his employer, and
the South Korean people.
A brief media frenzy ensued as
reporters tried to question Yu, who has been held incommunicado by the
North since late March. That is when Pyongyang alleged he criticized
the North's political system while working in an inter-Korean factory
zone in the North Korean city of Kaesong.
Yu was working for
Hyundai Asan, a South Korean corporation that has poured hundreds of
millions of dollars into the Kaesong zone, and into an inter-Korean
resort zone at the North's Kumgang mountain. Both projects have been
celebrated in the past as breakthroughs in cooperation between the two
Koreas, which remain technically at war.
Yu Seong-jin's release
came after Hyundai Asan Chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun spent four days in
Pyongyang, apparently negotiating his fate. The precise agenda during
her visit remains unclear. South Korean Unification Ministry Spokesman
Chun Hae-sung says no payoffs were made.
He says South Korea has not given anything to the North in return for Yu's release.
attention to Yu's case spiked here in South Korea after last week's
swift visit to the North Korean capital by former U.S. President Bill
Mr. Clinton arrived in Pyongyang last Tuesday, and by
the next morning was boarding a plane with U.S. journalists Laura Ling
and Euna Lee, whom North Korean leader Kim Jong Il personally pardoned
from a long labor sentence. They had been convicted of illegally
entering the country in March at the Chinese border.
Yong-hyun, a North Korean Studies professor at Seoul's Dongkuk
University, says Pyongyang had its reasons for making Chairwoman Hyun's
He says North Korea was trying to make the South
as anxious as possible in order to maximize political leverage. In
addition, Kim Jong Il was scheduled to be outside of Pyongyang early in
the week giving on-the-spot guidance, and was unable to deal with Hyun
South Korea is still working for the release of
four crew members of a fishing boat that crossed into North Korean
waters last month.