UPDATE 2 (2012-1-20): The DPRK has released two Japanese men recently detained in Rason. According to the Associated Press:
Two Japanese men detained in North Korea 10 months ago have returned home, a minister said Friday, adding it could be a “positive” diplomatic sign from the reclusive state.
The two arrived back in Japan this week, said Jin Matsubara, head of the National Public Safety Commission.
“I think this could be taken as a positive message from North Korea,” he told reporters.
Police declined to comment on whether the two men paid any money or why they were released.
The men, reportedly in their 30s and 40s were detained in a special economic zone near the communist state’s border with Russia. They returned via China.
Three Japanese men had initially been taken into detention in March last year, but one of them, who was in his 80s, was freed and returned to Japan in April, Jiji Press news agency and public broadcaster NHK said.
Reports said the three men were employees of a machine maintenance firm in Tokyo who had visited Rason city near North Korea’s border with Russia in March to check machines at a food manufacturing factory.
They were reportedly detained on charges of hiding drugs in canned goods to be exported to China and currency counterfeiting.
UPDATE 1 (2011-5-4): According to KCNA:
Japanese Detained in DPRK for Their Crimes
Pyongyang, May 4 (KCNA) — The Korean Central News Agency Wednesday issued the following report:
Masaki Furuya, former representative managing director of JP Dairin Co. Ltd., Hidehiko Abe, representative managing director of Realise Co. Ltd, of Japan, and Takumi Hirooka, managing director of Sugita Industrial Co. Ltd, of Japan, were put in custody by a relevant body on charges of drug trafficking and counterfeit after entering Rason City of the DPRK on March 14.
They admitted their crimes and their gravity.
Masaki Furuya had already been expelled from the DPRK and the two Japanese are called to legal accounts.
What they did is a very grave violation of the law of the DPRK and international law and they will, therefore, face proper legal actions.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that the DPRK held a Japanese man for drug smuggling from 2003-2009.
ORIGINAL POST (2011-4-20): According to Yonhap:
North Korea detained three Japanese men on apparent drug smuggling charges in its special economic zone last month, but it later released one man, a news report said Wednesday.
The three Japanese employees of a machine maintenance firm in Tokyo visited the city of Rason, near North Korea’s border with Russia, in March to check machines at a food manufacturing factory, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper said, citing unidentified sources.
They were detained on charges that they hid drugs in canned goods to be exported to China, though the North later allowed one of them to return to Japan, the newspaper said.
The North has demanded a large bail for the two detainees, it said.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs in Seoul, and the pro-North Korean association in Tokyo said they had no information.
The North’s state media have not reported on the case.
North Korea arrested a Japanese man on drug smuggling charges in 2003 before allowing him to return home on humanitarian grounds in 2009.
The news came days after North Korea confirmed the detention of a Korean-American man on a crime against the North.
The North said it will indict Jun Young-su, who was arrested in November, claiming he admitted his crime in the course of the investigation, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported Thursday.
According to the Korea Times the men were detained in Rason.
Read the Yonhap story here:
N. Korea detains two Japanese men: report