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South Korean Student 'Wanted to be Arrested' by North

  • VOA News

A South Korean university student being held for illegally entering North Korea has told a U.S. news outlet that he "wanted to be arrested" by the North.

Joo Won-Moon, 21, was arrested April 22 after crossing into North Korea from the Chinese border city of Dandong, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

Speaking to a CNN reporter in Pyongyang on Tuesday, Joo acknowledged he entered the country illegally, saying he crossed two barbed-wire fences and walked along a river until he was arrested by a soldier.

"I thought some great event could happen and hopefully that event could have a good effect in the relationship between the North and the South," said Joo. He did not specify what he thought the "great event" may have been.

"I hope that I will be able to tell the world how an ordinary college student entered the DPRK illegally but however with the generous treatment of the DPRK that I will be able to return home safely," he said, referring to North Korea by its official name.

Joo said he is being treated well and that he is being kept in a room with three beds, a private bathroom, and adequate food. However, he said he does not have access to the Internet, television, radio, or a phone.

"I am well and there's no need to worry because people here have treated me with the best of humanitarian treatment. I've been fed well, slept well, and I've been very healthy," he said.

KCNA has said Joo's entry was a "serious offense," but has not reported whether the student will be charged with a crime. Joo told CNN that he also does not know what charges he may face.

Joo is a student at New York University. In 2001 he moved to the U.S., where he has permanent residency.

During the interview, which took place at a conference room at the Koryo Hotel, Joo smiled and did not appear to be nervous. It could not be determined whether his North Korean minders instructed him on what to say or how to act.

North Korea has repeatedly detained foreigners, many of whom visit the North for the purpose of religious proselytizing. The detainees often are forced to confess to various anti-state charges, including espionage.

The foreign detainees are typically released, often after spending varying amounts of time in jail. The release often occurs following a visit by a U.S. official.

On Sunday, CNN interviewed two other South Koreans being held by Pyongyang. The men, Kim Kuk-Gi and Choe Chun-Gil, told the network they were spies for South Korea.

The government in Seoul has firmly denied that assertion and called for Pyongyang to release all South Korean citizens being held there.

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