CHOE SANG-HUN, “South Korean N.Y.U. Student Held by North Says He Wanted to Make a Point”, New York Times: May 5, 2015
SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean student at New York University who is being held by North Korea said in an interview broadcast on Tuesday that he had entered the reclusive country intending to be arrested, and that he had hoped to bring about better relations between the two Koreas by doing so.
The student, Joo Won-moon, told CNN he had thought that by entering North Korea, “some great event could happen and hopefully that event could have a good effect on the relations” between the North and South. Mr. Joo, 21, who acknowledged entering the country illegally, said he was uncertain what the nature of that “great event” would be.
Mr. Joo, who smiled and seemed at ease, said he was being treated well in detention. The interview was conducted at a hotel in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, according to CNN.
Whether Mr. Joo was speaking freely could not be determined. Though CNN said in an article on its website that North Korean government representatives had arranged the interview, the article did not specify whether representatives were present while it was conducted, as they have been during interviews with other detainees in Pyongyang by foreign news organizations.
North Korea announced on Saturday that Mr. Joo had been arrested on April 22 while illegally entering the country from China. It said Mr. Joo had admitted to violating North Korean law, but it did not specify what charges he might face.
Mr. Joo, a South Korean citizen, has permanent resident status in the United States. He told CNN that he had taken a semester off from college to travel across the United States, and that he had entered North Korea after an unsuccessful attempt to find work in California.
“Once the thought of entering the D.P.R.K. seeped into my mind, I couldn’t really escape it,” he said, using an acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s formal name.
“I guess I constantly thought about it,” Mr. Joo said. “I thought that as an American permanent resident and South Korean citizen that my entrance could have some good effect.”
Mr. Joo said he had not spoken to his parents, or to representatives of the South Korean or American governments. “Of course, I understand my parents and my loved ones are worrying a lot about me,” he said. “But I would like to say that I’m well and there’s no need to worry because the people here have treated me with the best of humanitarian treatment.”
In the past, North Korea has allowed foreign news organizations to interview those American detainees who have said they were being treated well and have asked the United States government to talk to Pyongyang to seek their release.
North Korea, which has no diplomatic ties with the United States, wants Washington to engage in dialogue over its nuclear weapons programs and negotiate a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War, which was halted with a truce in 1953.
South Korea has called for the return of Mr. Joo, as well as two South Korean men being held in the North on espionage charges. CNN interviewed those two detainees, Kim Guk-gi and Choe Chun-gil, on Sunday, with North Korean minders present. The two men said they were guilty of the charges against them. South Korea’s intelligence agency has denied that Mr. Kim and Mr. Choe were spies.