This week's release of two captive U.S. journalists by North Korea is
being welcomed around the world, including in South Korea. The release
also is renewing Seoul's focus on freeing its own citizens held in the
About the same time U.S. journalists Laura Ling and
Euna Lee were captured by North Korean soldiers along the Chinese
border in late March, a South Korean executive was taken into North
He is known publicly only by his last name, Yu,
and he helped administer a joint industrial venture in the North Korean
city of Kaesong. He is accused of making inflammatory comments about
the North Korean political system, and attempting to persuade a North
Korean female worker in the zone to defect. Kaesong executives say
alcohol may have been a factor.
Pyongyang has not allowed Yu any
access to South Korean officials or legal counsel for more than four
months. As Ling and Lee celebrate Wednesday's release with their
families in the United States, South Korean officials are still working
hard on Yu's case.
Chun Hae-sung, a spokesman with the
Unification Ministry in Seoul, says the government is doing everything
it can to win the release of Yu, as well as four crew members of a
fishing boat that crossed into North Korean waters last month.
However, he says Seoul is not thinking of sending a special envoy the
way Washington did with former President Bill Clinton.
Clinton flew to Pyongyang on Tuesday on what was billed as a private
humanitarian mission to secure the release of the two journalists, who
had been sentenced to 12 years hard labor. On Wednesday, he returned
home with the women.
Moon Tae-young, a spokesman for the South
Korean Foreign Ministry, says Mr. Clinton did use his meeting with
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to advocate for the release of the
He says Mr. Clinton urged the North to release
the detainees on humanitarian grounds. Moon adds he expects "immediate
progress" on securing their freedom.
The very emotional
homecoming of Ling and Lee is raising the profile of the South Korean
detentions. Lee Kang-rae is a senior official in South Korea's
opposition Democratic Party, which is typically softer in its criticism
of the North than the ruling conservatives. Still, he says the North's
refusal to free the South's citizens creates bad will.
his party is "disappointed" with North Korea for discriminating between
the South and the United States. He says a consensus is building in
the South that there is something wrong with North Korea's attitude.
addition to the five South Korean detainees dominating the headlines,
South Korea believes the North has kept about 400 of its citizens since
the Korean War was halted in 1953. About half of those are prisoners
of war. The others are believed to have been abducted by North Korean
agents. Pyongyang denies any abductions.