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

    Steve Herman is VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, based at the State Department.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora