Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun (C) and her staff pose upon their arrival in Pyongyang in this picture taken August 10, 2009 and released on August 11, 2009 by the DPRK official news agency KCNA. [Agencies]
SEOUL: The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) will free a Republic of Korea (ROK) worker in the next few days after detaining him for nearly five months for allegedly insulting the country's rulers, Seoul media said Tuesday, quoting informed sources.
The release could decrease tension on the Korean peninsula that has risen following the DPRK's May 25 nuclear test and threats against the ROK while easing concern among investors about a rupture in ties leading to chaos.
Hyun Jeong-eun, chairwoman of the vast Hyundai Group, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in projects in the DPRK, spent a second day in Pyongyang Tuesday seeking the employee's release. She delayed her planned return today, fueling speculation she might meet DPRK leader Kim Jong-il, whom she has met once before. But a spokesman for Hyundai Group's business arm said such a meeting had not been set as of late Tuesday.
Chinese analysts Tuesday praised the DPRK for the apparent positive gesture it has made to and defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Liu Jiangyong, an expert in International Affairs in Tsinghua University, said the DPRK's willingness to talk to Hyun is an extension of its approach with former US president Bill Clinton, who secured the release of two American journalists last week.
Yang Xiyu, a DPRK expert at the China Institute of International Studies, said: "Pyongyang's positive responses are in the interests of all parties in the six-nation talks to ease tension on the Korean Peninsula."
The DPRK's cooperation with the ROK on the issue will bring benefits for its economy, which has been hit by UN sanctions imposed after its nuclear test, Yang added.
Fan Jishe, a professor at the American Studies Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, also said the DPRK's positive responses will help build trust among all parties for future talks.
Clinton's visit to Pyongyang and his meeting with its top leader Kim Jong-il undoubtedly has furthered the US understanding of the DPRK and was seen as a step by the DPRK to achieve direct talks with Washington, he said.
No Quick Shift on Nukes
However, the DPRK's positive gestures do not necessarily mean a U-turn on its nuclear policy, they said.
Liu Jiangyong said the DPRK's gesture fits well into the current circumstances and is undoubtedly a wise act to avoid further confrontation.
Although there is no breakthrough in sight on the settlement of the nuclear issue, Pyongyang's willingness to talk with Clinton and Hyundai's chairperson is "constructive", Liu said.
Release Likely This Week
ROK TV news broadcaster YTN said the release of the man identified by his family name Yoo could take place today, while others expected it by the end of the week. A Unification Ministry official in Seoul would not comment on the reports.
Yoo has been held since late March at a joint factory park located in the DPRK border city of Kaesong. About 100 ROK firms use cheap DPRK labor and land to make goods at the park.
Zhang Xin contributed to this report.