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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid