In the News – N. Korea suspected of involvement in China’s arrest of S. Korean activists
SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) — An activist-turned-lawmaker-elect said Friday he suspects North Korea is deeply involved in the arrest of South Korean activists held in China on charges thought to be related to their anti-Pyongyang campaign.
Four activists were arrested in the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian on March 29. One of the detained is Kim Young-hwan, a senior researcher for the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, a Seoul-based civic group for North Korean defectors.
Ha Tae-kyung (Yonhap file photo)
Officials in Seoul said China has offered few details about the arrests, only saying the four are suspected of endangering China’s national security, a serious charge that carries heavy punishment. Further specifics will be available after an investigation is complete, China has said.
It is believed the detentions are related to the activists’ efforts to help North Korea defectors hiding in China, improve the North’s human rights conditions and other activities Pyongyang considers an affront to its totalitarian regime.
On Friday, Ha Tae-kyung, a leading anti-North Korea activist who was elected in last month’s general elections, said Kim has previously been considered pro-China and Beijing’s treatment of him and his colleagues as “anti-state” figures suggests there has been “outside pressure.”
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“It is suspected that North Korea, while keeping a close watch over Kim’s activity, asked Chinese authorities for his arrest after confirming he had entered China,” Ha said in a radio interview.
Ha said the North is also believed to be involved in the questioning of the activists by relaying questions it wants answered to Chinese interrogators.
Kim, 49, is a former South Korean proponent of North Korea’s guiding “juche” philosophy of self-reliance. He met with the North’s founding leader Kim Il-sung in 1991 after sneaking into the North via a North Korean submersible.
However, Kim Young-hwan later renounced his pro-North Korean ideology and became active in projects to raise awareness about the dismal human rights record in North Korea.