News / Asia

Four South Koreans Being Held in China

Protesters rally for North Korean defectors near the Chinese embassy in Seoul, March 3, 2012.
Protesters rally for North Korean defectors near the Chinese embassy in Seoul, March 3, 2012.
SEOUL - South Korea's foreign ministry says China has been holding four of its citizens in Dandong, activists linked to North Korean refugees, since their arrest March 29 in Dalian.

Spokesman Cho Byung-je says Seoul is asking Beijing to handle the case in a fair and swift manner.

"South Korea understands that the investigation is proceeding based on procedures under Chinese law," said Cho, who did not comment on specific accusations because formal charges have yet to be levied.

The group appears to have been in contact with North Korean refugees in northeastern China to find about life and conditions in their homeland.

Seoul-based activists said at least one of the detained men, Kim Young-hwan, a prominent and controversial figure in human rights circles in South Korea, is likely to face spying charges.

Kim, an independent researcher with the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, known as NKnet, is best known for clandestinely boarding a North Korean submarine in 1991 in order to meet the country's founder, Kim Il Sung. He later renounced his support for Pyongyang's ideology and became a strong critic of the reclusive country's human rights abuses.

The other South Korean detainees are identified as Yu Jae Gil, Kang Shin Sam and Lee Sang Yong.

Park Jin-keol, director of NKnet's international department, said South Koreans who assist North Koreans in China do face danger, but that they are rarely arrested for spying.

"In other cases, usually these people are not charged with espionage," he said. "Based on what Mr. Kim has been writing in South Korea, he never argued against the Chinese government. He only advocated human rights and the well-being of North Koreans. So we suspect that North Korean spy agencies or authorities are deeply involved in this incident by charging Mr. Kim and other people [in China] for espionage.”

South Korea's foreign ministry said one of its diplomats was able to meet Kim on April 26, but that Chinese officials said the other three men declined to meet with anyone from the consulate.

Park said he doesn't believe the latter statement.

"It's very unusual and it does not make whole sense to refuse meeting with consul," he said. "So we suspect this information is fabricated or not true."

When asked about the situation after it had been widely reported in South Korea, China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei pleaded a lack of knowledge and said he needed to get details before responding.

South Koreans, especially Christian missionaries, frequently seek to help tens of thousands of North Koreans believed to be residing in China. While some are attempting to make their way to a third country with the hopes of then defecting to South Korea, many others are in hiding and trying to make money.

If caught, North Koreans are usually forcibly repatriated as economic migrants, a process rights groups oppose on allegations that they face harsh treatment upon returning home.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid