Image: Yoo Seong-jin
Jo Yong-hak  /  Reuters
Technician Yoo Seong-jin, center, was released Thursday after being detained by Pyongyang for several months.
updated 8/13/2009 10:37:35 AM ET 2009-08-13T14:37:35

North Korea on Thursday freed a South Korean worker detained for months in the Communist country, officials said, brightening prospects for improved relations on the tense peninsula.

The release came days after Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun traveled to Pyongyang in an effort to secure the employee's freedom, and a week after the isolated regime freed two U.S. journalists sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for entering the country illegally in March. That release followed a surprise visit by former President Bill Clinton, who held talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Hyun remained in the North, and there was speculation she would meet Kim.

Yoo Seong-jin — an employee for Hyundai Group's North Korean business arm, Hyundai Asan — crossed the border and arrived at a South Korean immigration control center late Thursday, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry, which handles relations with Pyongyang.

  1. The death of Kim Jong Il
    1. Report: Red skies, stormy seas marked Kim's death
    2. Circumstances of Kim Jong Il's death fabricated?
    3. Politics trump hunger in N.Korea
    4. Slideshow: The life of Kim Jong ll
    5. Source: Military coup in N. Korea 'unlikely'
    6. NYT: In Kim's death, an extensive intelligence failure
    7. Cartoons: The life and death of Kim Jong Il
    8. Analysis: Opportunities, dangers loom over N. Korea
    9. Even in death, details of Kim Jong Il's life elusive
    10. Kim Jong Il remembered as 'Team America' star

The 44-year-old technician worked at an industrial zone in the North's border city of Kaesong, where about 110 South Korean-run factories employ about 40,000 North Korean workers. He was detained in March for allegedly denouncing the North's political system.

The complex's viability has come under questions in recent months as the North refused to release Yoo and demanded a massive increase in payments and recent at the industrial park. It now has only a skeleton South Korean staff.

Hyundai has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the industrial zone and a joint tourist project promoted by more liberal South Korean governments in the past.

But renewed tension between the rivals has seen a suspension of trips to the North by South Korean tourists and a dramatic reduction in the number of South Koreans working in the industrial zone.

The two Koreas technically remain at war since the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

More on: North Korea

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments