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Terrorism & Security

N. Korea frees South Korean worker: sign of warming relations?

The Hyundai engineer, who has been held since March, was released after the company's chairwoman traveled to Pyongyang Monday.

By / August 13, 2009

On Thursday, a South Korean soldier stands near a sign at the customs, immigration and quarantine office in Paju, near the border village of the Panmunjom (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas.

Lee Jin-man/AP

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North Korea has agreed to free a South Korean man it has held since March, say South Korean officials, indicating a possible warming of relations between the two Koreas for the first time in more than a year.

Agence France-Presse reports that Chun Hae-Sung, a spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry, told reporters that North Korea had agreed to release Yu Seong-jin, a Hyundai engineer who had been held in North Korea.

The release of Mr. Yu was the first conciliatory gesture to the South from the North since ties soured after Seoul's current conservative government took office in February 2008.

Yu had been detained in North Korea's Kaesong industrial zone, where South Korean companies employee North Korean workers, since March after he was accused of insulting North Korea's government and urging a North Korean worker to defect. Yu's release comes after Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jung-Eun traveled to Pyongyang Monday to discuss his release, and a week after former US President Bill Clinton met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to secure the release of two American journalists who were also detained in March. (Read The Christian Science Monitor's report on Mr. Clinton's trip here.)

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