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S. Korean activist flies to Italy after illegal condolence visit to N. Korea

All Headlines 17:42 January 03, 2012

BEIJING, Jan. 3 (Yonhap) -- A progressive South Korean activist wanted by prosecutors here for her illegal condolence trip to North Korea headed for Italy via China on Tuesday after leaving the North, instead of returning home.

Hwang Hye-ro, a 36-year-old researcher based in France, flew to Pyongyang on Dec. 24 to pay respect to the North's late leader Kim Jong-il without obtaining approval from South Korea's government as required by law.

Her illegal trip to the communist state is punishable by South Korea's National Security Law, which bans all activities sympathizing with the North. The two Koreas remain technically at war following a cease-fire at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

After staying there for 11 days, Hwang earlier in the day flew from Pyongyang to Beijing and then transferred to an airplane heading for Rome.

"I went to North Korea to promote reconciliation and peace as well as reunification of the two Koreas," Hwang told reporters. "I went there to pay condolence. I think (South Korean) spy agency or prosecutors should not prosecute (me) over the visit."

Hwang did not elaborate about her activities in the communist state or explain the purpose of her trip to Italy.

South Korean prosecutors said they have secured a warrant to arrest Hwang if she returns to the South.

Hwang had served two and a half years in jail for visiting the North in 1999 to attend a unification ceremony while studying at a Seoul college.


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