News / Asia

Carter Wins Freedom for US Man Imprisoned in North Korea

A former U.S. president, on a rare and unofficial visit to North Korea, has secured the release of an American citizen imprisoned there. The trip also may have eased tensions on the Korean peninsula.

State media confirm former President Jimmy Carter left North Korea Friday with Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who was jailed in January for entering the country illegally. He was sentenced to eight years of hard labor and fined.

The state news agency in Pyongyang says Mr. Carter "made an apology" on behalf of the U.S. government and pledged that a similar incident "will never happen again."

Kim Han Jung, a professor of social policy at Kyungwon University, says Gomes' release shows that North Korea wants dialogue with the United States.  

"I think North Korea wants to escape from these current difficulties in diplomatic deadlock," said Kim.

But it appears Mr. Carter did not meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, although he met with the second in command, Kim Yong Nam.

The Carter Center in the U.S. said the former president requested an amnesty for Gomes on humanitarian grounds. They are to arrive in Boston later Friday to reunite Gomes with his family.

The U.S. State Department welcomed Gomes' release, saying there had been concerns about his health. But the State Department says Mr. Carter went to Pyongyang as a private citizen, at the invitation of the North Koreans.

North Korean media say Kim Yong Nam expressed to Mr. Carter Pyongyang's commitment to "resume the six-way talks" on ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs.

Professor Kim at Kyungwon University does not consider the comment overly significant, in part because it was not delivered personally by the top leader.

"Whatever Kim Yong Nam told to the Carter delegation, that is not meaningful progress," said Kim.

Leader Kim Jong Il is reported to have traveled to China on Thursday. Mr. Kim travels in secret and there has been no indication of why he has gone to China. North Korea experts think he may be seeking new aid or Beijing's approval of his son, who is expected to succeed Mr. Kim.

China is leading efforts to re-start the long-stalled nuclear talks, which also involve the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia. Wu Dawei, Beijing's top envoy on Korean peninsula affairs, was in Seoul this week to discuss the issue.

Earlier this week the South Korean Foreign Ministry appeared to soften its position that the talks should be linked to the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in late March. Seoul blames a North Korean torpedo for sinking the Cheonan and demands an apology. Pyongyang denies any responsibility.

Since testing a nuclear device in 2006 and again last year, impoverished North Korea has faced tough new international sanctions. In addition, its economy continues to contract and aid agencies say it has suffered crop failures that put the country at risk of famine.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs