Meng’s Seoul trip likely linked to 4 Korean detainees
By Kang Hyun-kyung
A high-ranking Chinese official in charge of national security will make an unprecedented trip to Seoul later this week, drawing attention regarding the purposes of his visit.
Observers speculated Monday that Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu’s Seoul trip could offer clues to the fate of four South Korean detainees in China, including high-profile human rights activist Kim Young-hwan.
After arriving in Seoul Thursday, Meng is scheduled to have meetings with ranking South Korean officials. On Friday, the Chinese minister plans to meet Kim Sung-hwan, minister of foreign affairs and trade; Won Se-hoon, director of the National Intelligence Service; and Justice Minister Kwon Jae-jin.
The Chinese official may pay a courtesy visit to President Lee Myung-bak, which the foreign ministry said was yet to be confirmed.
The ministry declined to give details of the purpose of Meng’s Seoul trip, saying it would release a short press release today.
This is the first time that a public security minister of China will visit South Korea. Because of this, Seoul officials and human rights activists speculate that the trip could be linked to the fate of the four Korean detainees in China.
Choi Hong-jae, a human rights activist having launched the campaign to obtain the release of the four detainees, told The Korea Times that he hopes Meng’s rare visit could become a watershed event for the release of the four.
“I guess the Chinese official’s Seoul trip has something to do with the fate of the four detainees,” Choi said.
According to the activist, the government requested the National Assembly to reschedule a plan to adopt a resolution calling for the release of the four South Koreans on Thursday. The timing coincides with Meng’s arrival in Seoul.
The parliamentary members’ possible adoption of the resolution calling for the release of the four on the same day that the Chinese official arrives here could help build pressure on China to free them.
Members of the Assembly were initially scheduled to adopt the measure Monday.
The four South Koreans were arrested in late March in the northeastern city of Dalian on suspicions of “espionage and being a threat to national security” of China. They have been held in China for 103 days as of Monday.
They are human rights activists who have worked for North Korean defectors in the northeastern part of China.
Since being arrested, Kim has had a consular access twice, but the four have been denied access to a lawyer.
China allowed them to have consular access after mounting international calls to allow them a lawyer and to release them.