Charge against Korean photographer confirmed, Seoul requests his release
A member of the prosecutor’s office in Yantai confirmed to the Associated Press on 31 March that South Korean press photographer Jae-Hyun Seok has been charged with "trafficking in humans." An indictment against him and four other South Koreans accused in the same case has been sent to the city’s intermediate people’s court.
The same day, the South Korean government urged the Chinese authorities to release Seok. "We request humanitarian treatment for Seok, who was acting as a journalist or as a human rights activist, without trying to derive any financial benefit," South Korean foreign ministry spokesperson Kim Han-jyu said.
Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) repeated its call today for China to release South Korean freelance photographer Jae-Hyun Seok, who has been held without trial for the past two months after reporting on North Korean refugees trying to flee their country. It urged China’s new foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing, to see that he was immediately and unconditionally released.
The journalist, who works regularly for the US daily the New York Times, is being held in Yantai (Shandong province, opposite the Korean peninsula). He was charged on 4 March with involvement in "illegal human trafficking" and faces a heavy prison sentence if convicted.
He was arrested in Yantai on 18 January in a police trap set to catch a group of North Korean refugees. Police had pretended they would help the refugees leave China but then rounded them up and took them to special detention centres to be sent back to North Korea.
Seok’s wife, Kang Hyemon, told Reporters Without Borders he had been visited by his lawyer and the local South Korean consul but had not been allowed any mail or newspapers. She said that she is very worried about him, and that he was just doing his job as a photographer.