South Korean arrested for unapproved trip to North

PANMUNJOM, Korea — As North Koreans cheered and waved white “unified Korea” flags, a South Korean activist was arrested as soon as he set foot on home soil Thursday, resisting police in a stunt of defiance after an unapproved, three-month stay in the North.

Turning around to face crowds of cheering North Koreans before stepping over the line, No Su-hui raised his arms and shouted “Long live reunification,” a white unified Korea flag in his right hand and a bouquet of flowers in his left. Behind him on the South Korean side, South Korean soldiers stood in taekwondo poses, their eyes concealed behind dark sunglasses.

Associated Press photos showed South Korean officials in suits grabbing a resistant No just after he stepped over the demarcation line inside the Demilitarized Zone as South Korean soldiers snapped photographs at a close distance. From the North Korean side, soldiers and officials stood watching the melee as crowds of North Koreans waved “unified Korea” flags.

The stunt by No, 68, was designed to draw attention to the division of the Korean Peninsula. He had gone to Pyongyang from China in March even though South Koreans are prohibited from traveling to North Korea without government approval.

“The conservative forces are saying they will put me on trial, but I will judge them,” No said. “Please watch and see what will happen.”

No, who is vice chairman of South Korea’s Pan-Alliance for Korea’s Reunification, was dressed in a gray suit and white tie, a pin of unified Korea — a symbol of reunification — on his jacket. His pointed decision to cross back through the truce village of Panmunjom was a highly symbolic move to draw attention to his cause. Most tourists must enter and exit North Korea via China.

The Korean Peninsula has remained in a state of war since a truce ended three years of fighting in 1953. After a decade of warming ties, relations have soured since a new conservative administration took office in Seoul in 2008. Following the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010 that killed 46 sailors, which South Korea blames on the North, Seoul has severed nearly all ties with Pyongyang.

Only a handful of South Koreans have been granted permission to visit Pyongyang in recent years, including two delegations that went to pay their respects to late leader Kim Jong Il after his December death. Last year, a Christian minister was sentenced to prison for making a similar, unauthorized trip, and Seoul officials have said No will face punishment.

According to South Korea’s National Security Law, sneaking into North Korea without government permission is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, while praising the country could draw seven years.

North Korea has accused South Korean President Lee Myung-bak of being a traitor to the cause of reunification.

No, who went to Pyongyang to pay his respects to Kim on the 100th day after his death, visited major tourist sites and met with North Korean officials during his visit, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

In the South Korean border city of Paju, hundreds of anti-North Korean protesters rallied against No’s return, slashing his photo and burning mock figures of No and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Associated Press photographers Kim Kwang Hyon in Panmunjom and Hye Soo Nah in Paju, South Korea, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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