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September 25, 2017

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Seoul to punish activist for 'justified' trip to North Korea

SEOUL -- Seoul said Wednesday it would sternly punish a South Korean activist when he returns from an illegal trip to North Korea, despite assertions from his organization that the visit was justified.

Ro Su-hui arrived in Pyongyang on March 24 for a memorial service marking the 100th day since the death of longtime ruler Kim Jong Il.

The North has notified Seoul that the activist is expected to return through the border truce village of Panmunjom on Thursday afternoon, the South's unification ministry said.

"We will take stern measures against actions by Ro ... of secretly visiting (the North), vilifying our government and glorifying the North in violation of laws," said a spokeswoman for the ministry, which handles cross-border affairs.

Ro could face up to 10 years in prison under a tough security law that penalises pro-Pyongyang activity and bans citizens from going to the North without approval.

South Korean prosecutors earlier said the activist would be detained for questioning about his activities across the border.

Ro met the North's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam in Pyongyang Wednesday in "a compatriotic atmosphere," the North's official news agency reported.

On Tuesday a group that campaigns for Korean unification warned against arresting Ro. It accused Seoul of trying to use his return to eliminate "progressive pro-reform forces" before presidential elections in December.

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