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S. Korea repeats call for N. Korea to set free 4 S. Korean detainees

All Headlines 19:14 July 14, 2015

SEOUL, July 14 (Yonhap) -- The Unification Ministry reiterated its call on Tuesday for North Korea to immediately release four South Koreans detained in the North, including a New York University student.

Joo Won-moon, 21, who has been detained by North Korea since April 22 after allegedly making an illegal entry into the North, expressed his hope to be released soon at a press conference with foreign reporters held in Pyongyang earlier in the day, according to the Associated Press. He also asked his family not to be too worried about him as he is healthy, it said.

North Korea has also kept in captivity three other South Koreans, including missionary Kim Jung-wook.

The ministry voiced "deep" regret over the North's unilateral host of such a press conference at a time when Pyongyang refuses to accept Seoul's consistent call for setting them free.

"We once again urge the North to repatriate the four South Koreans being kept in captivity as soon as possible," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry also called on Pyongyang to allow them to have a meeting with their family members and Seoul government officials on humanitarian grounds.

Their family members are living with worry and anxiety, hoping that the detainees could come back home as soon as possible, it added.

In an interview with U.S. news cable network CNN in May, Joo admitted that he had intentionally entered the North on the belief that his arrest could have a good effect on inter-Korean relations.

Missionary Kim, 52, has been held there since October 2013. The North has described him as a spy for South Korea's National Intelligence Service, who sneaked into the country with the purpose of inciting dissent.

The other two detained South Koreans -- Kim Kuk-gi and Choe Chun-gil -- were recently allowed to have separate interviews with CNN, in which they said they worked for Seoul's spy agency. CNN said it hasn't been able to independently verify their accounts.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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