New York University student Won-moon Joo, who has been in detention in North Korea since April, has been released according to South Korean officials. They say Joo was handed over to them today at the border of the two countries.
A South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman says they were relieved Joo was released but also urged North Korea to free three other South Korean citizens who remain in detention.
At the time of his arrest, North Korea said the student’s illegal entry was “a serious violation” of its laws.
New York University spokesman John Beckman says the university, which has been in close contact with Joo’s family and government officials since he was arrested, welcomed the news of his release.
“He and his family have been in our thoughts. We’re relieved to learn of his release and glad for this good outcome,” he says.
Joo, who is in his early 20’s, although a permanent U.S. resident is a South Korean citizen. He was arrested by a North Korean border patrol after crossing into the country from China. He had reportedly taken a semester off from his studies at New York University to find work in California but after failing to do so, had decided to go to China to cross into North Korea.
During an interview with CNN in May, Joo said he had crossed into North Korea to “make a statement”.
“I thought that by my entrance to the DPRK — illegally, I acknowledge — I thought that some great event could happen and hopefully that event could have a good effect on the relations between the two Koreas,” he had said.
Although released by North Korea, Joo’s future freedom from prosecution is not certain as South Korea’s National Intelligence Service says it will be investigating if Joo violated national security laws.