Kim Young Hwan and three other North Korea human rights activists finally returned to Seoul by Korean Air yesterday evening, arriving in Incheon International Airport at 7:28PM on the 114th day since their arrest in Liaoning Province, China in late March.
The government formally received the party from the Chinese authorities at 5:15PM.
Immediately upon arrival, the four men held a brief press conference before being taken for health checks and debriefing by the South Korean authorities.
“I wish to thank the Korean government and people for their effort to bring about our release,” Kim told the assembled journalists and family who had come to meet the group. “I would also like to say thank you to our families and colleagues.”
“I feel very sorry for the worry and the burden that we inflicted upon the Korean government and the nation’s people,” he added.
“However,” he went on, “The fundamental North Korean reality is a terrible human rights situation and a terrible dictatorship, and at a time when even distant countries are working for North Korean human rights and democratization, as a member of the same race it is my proper right and duty to work actively for this.”
Kim noted that while he had some health difficulties in Chinese detention, he is not suffering any serious health issues now.
The wife of one of the other men, Kang Shin Sam, was at the airport and, although she was forbidden from meeting her husband directly, said, “Right now I am happy beyond words. Fortunately, he does not appear to be suffering any health problems.”