N. Korea Frees NYU Student After 5 Months

Joo Won-moon, 21, is back home in South Korea: Seoul
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2015 6:14 AM CDT
Joo Won-moon, center, is escorted by a South Korean official at the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Monday, Oct. 5, 2015.   (The South Korean Unification Ministry via AP)
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(Newser) – Five months after he was detained for allegedly entering North Korea illegally, 21-year-old Joo Won-moon, 21, has put the hermit nation behind him. Seoul says the South Korean citizen and permanent resident of the US was handed to South Korean officials at the border on Monday after he was initially detained in April, reports Yonhap News. "It's a relief that North Korea has decided to repatriate our national, Joo," a Unification Ministry official says. But while Yonhap notes the move could be a conciliatory gesture by the North, the official appeared unmoved, noting North Korea still holds three other South Koreans sentenced to hard labor for life on charges of spying.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service tells CNN it will now investigate whether Joo violated its own security laws to enter the North. Joo, a New York University student who'd been living in New Jersey, told CNN in May that he "wanted to be arrested" after crossing barbed wire fences to enter the country through China. "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 said, adding he decided to enter North Korea when he couldn't find a job in California while taking a semester off to travel. (Read more North Korea stories.)

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