SEOUL: North Korea on Tuesday released a South Korean who was arrested after crossing the border last month, Seoul’s unification ministry said, welcoming the “humanitarian” gesture.
The North told the South Monday of its decision to release the man, who was detained for crossing into the country on July 22, the ministry said in a statement.
“Our side received a South Korean national surnamed Seo, born in 1984, through Panmunjom from the North at 11:00 am (0200 GMT)” on Tuesday, the ministry said, referring to the truce village in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two countries.
“The government positively appreciates the repatriation… which was made on humanitarian grounds,” it said without elaborating.
Relations between North and South have improved markedly following a summit between their leaders in April.
An unidentified ministry official told Yonhap news agency the man was currently being questioned by South Korean authorities.
“We have to investigate to know why he went to the North and how he got there,” the official said.
Apart from Seo, Pyongyang since 2013 has detained six South Koreans — three Christian missionaries and three defectors originally from the North — and Seoul has been pushing for their release.
The nuclear-armed regime released three US detainees in May in an apparent goodwill gesture before a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Singapore.
Since the Singapore summit in June, relations have improved between the US and North Korea but progress on denuclearization has been slow, with Washington urging the need to maintain tough sanctions against Pyongyang.
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