Release of 4 detainees imminent
Meng Jianzhu, China’s public security minister, is to arrive in Seoul Thursday for a three-day visit, amid speculation that the release of four South Korean detainees in the neighboring country is imminent.
This is the first time that a Chinese public security minister has visited South Korea since the two sides established diplomatic relations in 1992.
On Friday, Meng is scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan; Won Se-hoon, director of the National Intelligence Service; Justice Minister Kwon Jae-jin; and Prosecutor-General Han Sang-dae.
As public security minister, Meng is in charge of intelligence, immigration, police and security affairs. Since no ministry in Korea fits exactly with the Chinese public security ministry’s jurisdictions, Meng is to meet Cabinet ministers overseeing each area.
The high-ranking Chinese official’s trip is reportedly linked to the possible release of four South Korean detainees, including high-profile human rights activist Kim Young-hwan.
A foreign ministry official declined to confirm whether the four would be released soon.
Asking for anonymity, he said Seoul hopes “things will go smoothly,” adding the ministry has fully communicated with Beijing over the matter since they were arrested and detained in late March.
The Chinese authorities have reportedly completed their investigation of the four and decided not to indict them. Considering this, some observers speculate that China may deport them soon.
Some say the four Koreans may be released shortly after Meng’s visit.
Members of the National Assembly were scheduled to adopt a resolution calling for the release of the four detainees before the Chinese official’s arrival here to increase pressure on China to free them.
But they showed no signs of pushing for the measure Thursday as the ruling party, which spearheaded the initiative, was locked in turmoil after a motion to allow the prosecution to arrest Rep. Chung Doo-un failed to win approval in the Assembly.
The ruling party faces a backlash in the wake of the failed vote, as it has vowed to remove lawmakers’ perk such as immunity from criminal persecution or arrest while a parliamentary session is open.
Kim Young-hwan and his fellow human rights activists were arrested in the northeastern city of Dalian in late March on suspicions of “espionage and being a threat to national security.”
But his fellow activists in Seoul say the claims are dubious, saying Kim was very supportive of China for its economic reforms and expressed the view that North Korea should emulate China’s model of economic openness.
The four have been held in a detention center in Dandong near the border with North Korea while the Chinese authorities’ investigation was underway.
Of the four, Kim had consular access twice but was denied a lawyer. The three others were quoted by the Chinese officials as saying that they didn’t want to meet with a South Korean consul.