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S Korean missionary’s son to make UN plea for father’s release

65-year-old Choe Chun-gil has been held in North Korea on trumped-up spying charges since 2014
This picture taken by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 26, 2015 shows South Korean Choe Chun-Gil speaking at a press conference at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang.

This picture taken by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 26, 2015 shows South Korean Choe Chun-Gil speaking at a press conference at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 19, 2024 04:14 AM GMT
Updated: March 19, 2024 04:30 AM GMT

The son of a South Korean missionary detained in North Korea is slated to call for international cooperation for the repatriation of his father and other detainees at a United Nations meeting, says a report.

Choe Chun-gil, 65, has been detained in North Korea since 2014 and is among six other South Koreans detained for years and whose whereabouts are unknown, Yonhap News Agency reported on March 18.

Choe’s son, Jin Young, 34, is visiting Geneva this week to “muster international attention on North Korea's abductee issue,” South Korea’s unification ministry said.

He was expected to “urge the international community to support efforts to confirm the fate of his father and other detained South Koreans as well as press North Korea to repatriate them,” the ministry added.

Kim Kuk-gi, a Presbyterian pastor and former missionary, is also reportedly detained with Choe.

In May 2015, the North Korean authorities presented Kim and Choe at a press conference in Pyongyang attended by journalists and foreign diplomats, the Church in Chains reported in 2023.

With government minders present, the two men had reportedly “confessed” that they had been paid large sums of money over several years to steal state secrets for South Korea, the Church in Chains reported.

Jin's visit coincides with the ongoing session of the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council from Feb. 26 to April 5.

The Human Rights Council holds at least three regular sessions a year, for a total of at least ten weeks. They typically take place in February-March, June-July, and September-October. Sessions can be three, four, or five weeks long, depending on the program of work.

Choe’s son is expected to meet with Elizabeth Salmon, the UN special rapporteur for North Korean human rights, and Julie Turner, the US special representative for North Korean human rights, among others on March 19.

He is also expected to meet South Korea’s ambassador for international cooperation on North Korean human rights Lee Shin-hwa.

The South Korean permanent mission in Geneva will also host a related event on the sidelines of the visit, Yonhap reported.

Earlier, the unification ministry had said that it plans to seek international cooperation with the United States, Japan, and Canada to help resolve the North's abductee issue, as those nations saw some of their nationals fall victim to Pyongyang's actions.

"We will do our best to expand international cooperation, as close cooperation with the international community is crucial to resolving the issue of abductees, detainees and [Prisoners of War]," the unification ministry said, Yonhap reported.

The last time the South Korean government negotiated the issue of detainees with North Korea was during the April 2018 inter-Korean summit at Panmunjom.

Of an estimated 3,835 South Koreans who were kidnapped by North Korea after the war, 3,310 people were sent back home and nine escaped the repressive regime, with the other 516 South Koreans having yet to return home, according to government data.

The Yoon Suk Yeol government stated that it will make intensive efforts until the UN's Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights on North Korea in November this year.

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