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N.K. denies S. Korea's move to check safety of six detainees

All News 11:47 June 20, 2017

SEOUL, June 20 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has not responded to South Korea's demand to check the safety of its six nationals detained in the North, a government officials said Tuesday.

The government has sought to grasp the security of the detained South Koreans through cooperation with European countries which have diplomatic ties with Pyongyang and international organizations, but Pyongyang has not responded to Seoul's call, according to the Ministry of Unification.

"The first thing that the government will do after inter-Korean communication channels are restored is to check the safety of the detained South Koreans," said a government official.

Concerns about South Koreans held in the North have risen after Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was detained in North Korea for 17 months, was released in a coma last week. He died Monday (U.S. time) due to what his family called the "awful torturous mistreatment" by North Korea.

North Korea is holding six South Korean nationals including three missionaries -- Kim Jung-wook, Kim Kuk-gi and Choe Chun-gil. They were sentenced to hard labor for life on charges of spying for South Korea's spy agency.

Kim Jung-wook, 52, was arrested in October 2013 and the two others were captured in 2014 by North Korean authorities.

North Korea has selectively permitted consular access to foreigners detained in the North. Pyongyang is also holding three Americans and one Canadian pastor in captivity.

Sweden's embassy in North Korea is granted consular contact with such detainees as it serves as an interlocutor.

But the North has not allowed consular access to the South Korean detainees as the two Koreas do not recognize each other as a state, the ministry said.

N.K. denies S. Korea's move to check safety of six detainees - 1

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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