SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean prosecutors are investigating a New York University student freed this week by North Korea on suspicion that he violated a law that prohibits South Korean citizens from traveling to the North without permission, officials said Wednesday.
The student, Won Moon Joo, a South Korean national, was questioned by Seoul’s National Intelligence Service upon his arrival in South Korea on Monday. The investigation is now being directed by prosecutors for possible indictment, according to an official from the spy agency who didn’t want to be identified, citing office rules.
Joo, 21, was detained in North Korea for about six months after being arrested for crossing the Chinese border into the North.
South Korea’s National Security Law prohibits citizens from praising North Korea or from visiting the country without approval.
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Joo, who has permanent residency status in the United States, was one of four South Koreans known to be held in North Korea. The three who remain there are accused of serious charges such as espionage or attempts to establish underground churches in the country.
North Korea often uses detainees in attempts to win political concessions and aid from rivals Seoul and Washington. Its decision to release Joo, whose alleged crime was relatively minor, is a possible indicator that it wants better ties with Seoul and may back away from a recent threat to launch a long-range rocket later this month, South Korean analysts said.
The two Koreas are still technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.