Connect to share and comment

N. Korea refuses South's request for 'spy' release


North Korea has refused to accept an official written request from South Korea for the release of one of its citizens detained for alleged espionage, Seoul officials said Tuesday.

The unification ministry said it had been trying to deliver the request through the border truce village of Panmunjom since Monday.

But North Korean officials had refused to accept the written message, which calls for the early release of the detained man and confirmation of his identity.

The North announced the arrest of the alleged spy earlier this month and said he was being charged with unspecified "plot-breeding" activities.

Pyongyang declined to identify the detainee, but last week a South Korean Christian activist named him as Kim Jeong-Wook, 50, a Baptist evangelist who had been providing shelter and food to North Korean refugees hiding out in China.

Kim had reportedly entered the North to establish the whereabouts of some refugees repatriated by China.

Some Christians, including US evangelists of Korean ancestry, have been arrested and jailed in the North in recent years.

Some have been allowed to return home after interventions by high-profile US figures.

US citizen Kenneth Bae has been in prison for a year after being sentenced to 15 years' hard labour on charges of seeking to topple the North Korean government.

The North has described Bae as a militant Christian evangelist who smuggled inflammatory material into the country.