SEOUL, July 15 (UPI) — North Korea said it has in custody a defector and South Korean national who was attempting to abduct a North Korean orphan when he was apprehended by local authorities.
On Friday Pyongyang identified the detainee as Ko Hyun-chol, a man in his early fifties.
North Korea staged a press conference where Ko confessed to spying on the state, South Korean newspaper Herald Business reported.
Pyongyang claimed the man was working for Seoul’s National Intelligence Service.
North Korea has yet to provide any updates on other detained South Korean nationals Kim Jeong-uk, Kim Guk-gi and Choe Chun-gil. Kim Guk-gi was identified as a minister affiliated with a Christian association in Seoul, and Pyongyang has accused Choe of espionage.
Seoul called for an immediate repatriation of Ko on Friday, although given Pyongyang’s track record on using detainees to condemn Seoul or Washington it’s unlikely Ko or the others would be released.
North Korea has also expressed its frustration with the defection of 13 North Korean restaurant workers from a location in China, and has claimed South Korean intelligence officials abducted the waitresses and their manager.
The defectors had traveled on valid passports.
Seoul’s unification ministry expressed disappointment in Pyongyang’s announcement.
“We express deep regret for North Korea’s unilateral arrest of [South Korean nationals] and use of them in a press conference as part of its propaganda war,” the ministry said in its statement on Friday.
Seoul has said North Korea still holds 40,000 South Koreans it has arrested or abducted since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.