South Korean arrested by North says he is well, was just trying to help

Reuters , Tuesday 5 May 2015

A South Korean college student arrested by North Korea for illegal entry said he was hoping for a "great event" to help strengthen relations between the diplomatic rivals and acknowledged he had broken the law, CNN reported on Tuesday.

Joo Won-moon, 21, a student at New York University, was arrested on April 22 after crossing from the Chinese side of the Yalu river, the North's official KCNA news agency said.

Joo said he was being treated well, being kept in a room with three beds and a private bathroom but with no access to internet, television or a telephone.

"I thought some great event could happen and hopefully that event could have good a effect in the relationship between the North and the South," Joo told CNN.

"...I am well and there's no need to worry because people here have treated me with the best of humanitarian treatment. I've been fed well slept well and I've been very healthy."

North Korea, heavily sanctioned by the United Nations for its missile and nuclear tests, is technically still at war with the South after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

New York University said Joo was a student at its Stern School of Business but not taking classes this semester. The school said it was unaware of his travels.

"NYU has been in touch with the U.S. State Department about this matter, as well as the South Korean embassy," school spokesman John Beckman said. The school added it had also contacted his family to express its support.

North Korea is also holding a South Korean missionary who was sentenced to life with hard labour last year for espionage and setting up an underground church.

Last year, Pyongyang released three detained Americans including Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary who had been held for two years.

Joo said he had not yet been contacted by the authorities of the United States or South Korea and apologized for causing concern to his family and loved ones.

Joo told CNN that he entered North Korea by hiking through wire fences, walking down the river before he encountered a soldier who arrested him.

South Korea urged North Korea to release four of its citizens, including Joo.

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