Seoul demands access to SKorean held in NKorea
A male staff from Hyundai Asan was held in Kaesong. -AFP
SEOUL (AFP) - Seoul Tuesday demanded that North Korea allow access to a South Korean who has been detained at a jointly-run industrial estate for allegedly criticising the communist state's political system and encouraging a local worker to defect.
The unification ministry said the man was being kept in custody for questioning at Kaesong just north of the border for a second consecutive day.
The case comes amid rising regional tensions over the North's planned rocket launch between April 4 and 8. The United States, South Korea and Japan say its real purpose is to test a long-range missile.
"The investigation is presumed to be under way at the North Korean immigration office in the Kaesong industrial complex," ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-Joo said, adding South Korean access to him was being refused.
"The government, as it did yesterday, will demand again today that the interrogated person be allowed access and the right to get a lawyer's help."
The North told Seoul Monday the employee was under questioning for "criticising its political system" and "for instigating the defection of a female (North Korean) worker by degenerating and spoiling her."
It was unclear if the worker had actually defected. The North on Monday promised to guarantee the detainee basic human rights.
South Korea's Hyundai Asan, which runs Kaesong and other joint ventures with the North, confirmed one of its male staff was held in Kaesong but refused to elaborate.
DongA Ilbo newspaper, quoting unnamed officials, identified him as a single man in his 40s who is a contract worker with the Kaesong business department of Hyundai Asan.
The North is also holding two US journalists for an alleged illegal border crossing and said Tuesday they would go on trial for this offence and for unspecified ""hostile acts."
"The government has no knowledge of any link between the two separate cases," the ministry spokeswoman said.
Cross-border ties have been worsening for months. The North intermittently blocked access to Kaesong and has scrapped all peace pacts with the South in protest at the Seoul government's firmer line on inter-Korean ties.
Kaesong opened in 2005 as a symbol of reconciliation between two countries still technically at war following their 1950-1953 conflict, but its operations have often been hampered by regional tensions.
The North in March several times shut the western border crossing to Kaesong in protest at a joint US-South Korean military exercise which it called a rehearsal for invasion.
About 39,000 North Koreans work for 98 South Korean firms at Kaesong, producing labour-intensive items such as watches, clothes, shoes and kitchenware.
In 1999 a female tourist at the Seoul-funded Kumgang resort, on the other side of the peninsula, was detained and later expelled for allegedly urging a North Korean guide to defect.
Related story: NKorea detains Hyundai Asan worker
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