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DPRK accused over activist arrests

Supporters say North Korea is helping China with investigations

Kim Young-hwan has been detained in China for 50 days (courtesy of CRAK) Kim Young-hwan has been detained in China for 50 days (courtesy of CRAK)
  • Stephen Hong, Seoul
  • Korea
  • May 17, 2012
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Chinese authorities worked closely with North Korea in arresting four prominent South Korean human rights activists in March, a group campaigning for their release said today.

The claim by the Committee for the Release of Activist Kim Young-hwan (CRAK) comes a day after South Korea’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Chinese consul general to explain the arrests, a sign the incident has caused diplomatic tensions between Seoul and Beijing.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs only yesterday confirmed it was conducting investigations against the activists.

The detained South Koreans, who along with Kim Young-hwan have been identified as Yu Jae-gil, Kang Shin-sam and Lee Sang-yong, reportedly helped fleeing North Koreans defect.

CRAK said today Chinese authorities had confirmed they were arrested in Dalian in northeastern China on March 29 for violating Beijing’s law on national security.

No further details of the charges were provided by the Chinese authorities, CRAK spokesman Choi Hong-jae added, but they are expected to face spying charges.

CRAK has confirmed the four activists were moved from Dalian to Dandong, a city on the Chinese side of the border with North Korea, which it said was a sign that China plans to conduct a joint investigation with its Communist neighbor.

“North Korea’s intelligence agency informed Chinese authorities about them and was involved in their arrest,” said Choi, citing a source on North Korea.

Lee Sang-il, a spokesman for South Korea’s ruling Saenuri Party, told reporters in Seoul yesterday the government in Beijing might be conscious of North Korea in what was described as an “abnormal” use of China’s national security law.

Lee urged the Chinese government to immediately release the four activists, whose detention can be extended up to seven months, according to China’s national security legislation.

Kim, previously a supporter of North Korea, famously made a secret visit to the country aboard a submarine to meet with the country’s former President Kim Il-sung in 1991.

He later renounced his support for North Korea’s ‘Juche’ ideology and is currently working as a senior researcher at the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, a Seoul-based group that supports North Korean defectors.

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