According to a report carried by a South Korean daily newspaper today, South Korea and China are negotiating the release of detained human rights activists Kim Young Hwan and three other men currently being held by the Chinese Ministry of State Security in Dandong, Liaoning Province.
The report carried by Kyunghyang Shinmun asserts that China has already agreed to release the four men, and that the two sides are now working out the finer details of the releases.
However, while acknowledging the existence of negotiations, a number of officials Daily NK spoke to this morning have cast doubt on the article’s claim that release is impending.
One such government official commented, “Nothing has been confirmed. We hope that China will make that decision soon, but there has been no such move so far. We are discussing it, but we are not at the stage of making concrete decisions about dates and methods of release.”
Another official agreed, saying, “There has been some progress, but nothing concrete enough to discuss.”
The organization formed to petition for Kim’s release, the ‘Committee for the Release of North Korean Human Rights Activist Kim Young Hwan’, has also heard nothing about Kim’s impending release. According to a committee official, “We know that the government is discussing it with the Chinese side, but we have no concrete idea how that is going.”
However, one diplomatic source did sound a more positive note, saying that “China has seemingly come down on the side of release,” but adding also, “It may happen within a week, but it is hard to conclude anything.”