N. Korea repatriates S. Korean man in ‘humanitarian move’

November 18, 2015

SEOUL (Yonhap) — North Korea repatriated Tuesday a South Korean man who crossed into the communist country through the border with China earlier this year, a government official said.

The 48-year-old man, identified only by his surname Lee, was handed over to the South through the truce village of Panmunjom along the inter-Korean border, according to the official from the Unification Ministry.

Lee entered the North through the Yalu River bordering China and North Korea’s upper western edge in September.

The motive of Lee’s move was not revealed immediately.

“The North side notified the South of its plan to send back one South Korean through a Red Cross message dispatched around 9:45 a.m.,” the official said.

North Korea said it returned Lee back to the South in a humanitarian move, he said.

This is the third time the North has repatriated South Korean nationals so far this year, actions which are widely interpreted as a gesture of reconciliation.

Previously a South Korean couple in their 50s were sent back home before one more South Korean, a 21-year-old student of a university in the U.S. was transferred to Seoul in October.

“It’s a relief that the North has repatriated our citizen and we call on the North to also release our nationals still held up in the country,” the official said, referring to other South Koreans detained there, including missionary Kim Jung-wook.