North frees Canadian aid worker held 2 months

Joong Ang Daily

A Canadian citizen detained for more than two months in North Korea has been released, the Canadian Embassy in Seoul said yesterday.

Kim Je-Yell was deported to China on Saturday and was met at the border by Canadian consular officials, said Shauna Hemingway, head of public affairs at the embassy.

“Canadian officials are facilitating his reunion with his family,” she said, without saying where he is now.

“We are grateful to North Korean authorities for providing us with consular access to Mr. Kim.”

She declined to give further details, saying Kim’s family had asked for privacy.

Kim, a Korean-born Canadian in his 50s, appeared to have fallen afoul of the state due to his religious connections, according to media reports.

He was detained in the remote northeast part of the country on Nov. 3, the Toronto Star reported last week.

The news had not been announced earlier pending diplomatic efforts to have him freed, the newspaper said. The Star cited the humanitarian group he worked for, Christian Aid, as saying Kim was held on charges related to “national security.”

Kim had been bringing in dental supplies and setting up clinics in northeastern North Korea for nearly a decade with official approval, the report said.

A Voice of America radio report said Kim had written in a statement during interrogation that he had criticized the North Korean regime and tried to establish a church in the North.

Canada’s ambassador to South Korea, Ted Lipman, visited Pyongyang last week in an apparent effort to secure his release.

The North’s constitution provides for freedom of religious belief. “However, in practice the government severely restricts religious freedom, including organized religious activity, except that which is supervised tightly by officially recognized groups linked to the government,” the U.S. State Department said in its 2007 report on religious freedom.

“Genuine religious freedom does not exist.”


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