Executive hopes to duplicate success of Bill Clinton mission
Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun of Hyundai Group in Republic of Korea arrives at the CIQ (customs, immigration and quarantine) office, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul, August 10, 2009, before she crosses the border to visit Pyongyang. [Agencies]
SEOUL: The chief of conglomerate Hyundai Group traveled Monday to Pyongyang seeking the freedom of an employee.
The 44-year-old technician from the Republic of Korea (ROK), who has only been identified by his family name, Yu, was detained four months ago for allegedly denouncing the DPRK's political system. He worked in a joint industrial park where ROK-run factories employ DPRK workers, and Seoul officials have not been allowed access to the man.
The Republic of Korea's (ROK) Hyundai has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into joint projects in the DPRK, including tours to a famed mountain resort and ancient sights in Kaesong city, and the industrial park. But Pyongyang halted the tours last year amid tensions with the ROK. The factory park remained open with a skeleton ROK staff.
The DPRK was also still holding four ROK fishermen and their boat seized last month after the vessel strayed into northern waters.
Her three-day visit comes on the heels of former President Bill Clinton's journey to Pyongyang last week to secure the release of two American journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for entering the country illegally in March.
DPRK leader Kim Jong-il pardoned the women last Tuesday and ordered their release.
Worker 'Most Urgent Issue'
Hyun is expected to focus on securing the worker's release and persuading the DPRK to resume tours to Diamond Mountain and Kaesong, both operated by Hyundai Asan, the group's DPRK business arm, said Kim Ha-young, a Hyundai Asan spokesman.
"The release of the detained worker is the most urgent issue," the spokesman said.
ROK media, including the mass-circulation JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, said Hyun may meet Kim Jong-il during her trip, but Hyundai Asan said she doesn't have any plans to meet the DPRK leader.
In Seoul, the Unification Ministry, which handles relations with Pyongyang, confirmed Hyun was making the trip. Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung told reporters the government has also made "all necessary efforts" to win the manager's release.