‘Kim’s remarks misinterpreted’
By Kang Hyun-kyung
A human rights group said Sunday that it suspected the foreign ministry quoted Kim Young-hwan, a Korean activist detained in China, out of context during a meeting with a South Korean consular official.
The group said the ministry erroneously concluded Kim and his three colleagues also in custody were under no duress on deciding on whether to see lawyers.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Kim wanted a lawyer, which was denied by the Chinese authorities, while the three others signed a statement giving up their right to consular access. They also didn’t want lawyers as their families hadn’t hire any, it said.
Choi Hong-jae, a spokesman of the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, had a different interpretation about their motives.
“Can I say such a thing in the presence of the Chinese police?” Choi Hong-jae, a spokesman for the Committee for the Release of Kim Young-hwan, quoted Kim as saying when asked about any violations of human rights during his meeting with the consul on April 26.
Choi said that he obtained the information from the consul after his interview with Kim.
“I think the ministry made a mistake,” he said pointing out that from the context of the remark, Kim was afraid of mental and physical harm.
The four have been in detention for 53 days with all access to the outside denied.
The ministry has been under fire for failing to put pressure on China to secure Kim’s release.
Choi also said that _ contrary to government claims _ Kim had not refused ministry assistance in pressuring China to reveal why he was arrested and let him have access to a lawyer.
Last week, a high-ranking government official told reporters, on condition of anonymity, that the three other detainees appeared not to want to speak to a lawyer. He said this is what the government learned from the consul who met Kim in April.
Regarding legal representation, the official also said, under Chinese law, the authorities can deny the basic right when a person is arrested for espionage or is a threat to national security which China claims is the case of the four detainees.
Korea has yet to make any strong demand of China to elaborate how the four posed a threat to its national security.
The South Korean consul met Kim 40 days after he was arrested in the northeastern city of Dalian March 29 on suspicions of “espionage and being a threat to national security.”
Seoul was informed of the arrest of Kim and three other activists there a day after they were detained.
It was later known that Kim Moon-soo, governor of Gyeonggi Province, mediated the consul’s interview with Kim. After learning the plight facing the human rights activists, the Gyeonggi governor sent a letter to the head of Liaoning Province through an official who was on a business trip there to ask for consular access, which was accepted.
If the access was only allowed 40 days after the Chinese authorities’ arrested the four, it is because Beijing ignored Seoul’s requests, and it will face international criticism for human rights abuse.
China has been under fire from the international community for abuses of human rights. The recent case involving human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng who arrived in the United States, Saturday, is an example showing the abuses of human rights are an ongoing story in the world’s second largest economy.