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Korean-Americans Arrested in China

July 2, 2002

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BEIJING (AP) _ China has arrested three U.S. citizens of South Korean descent for organizing what the government called ``illegal cross-border people trafficking,″ the Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday.

Ministry spokesman Liu Jianzhao said Chun Ki Won, Choi Bong Il and Choi John Daniel were taken into custody.

``They were involved in the smuggling of persons and crossing borders,″ Liu said. He added: ``All offenders in China shall be brought to justice in compliance with Chinese laws.″

He had no further details on the crimes for which they are accused. The official Xinhua News Agency, in a brief dispatch late Tuesday, also did not specify the charges.

Calls to the U.S. Embassy’s press office were not answered Tuesday evening.

The issue of helping people _ North Koreans, in particular _ escape their country through China is particularly sensitive to the Chinese government.

More than five dozen North Koreans have sought refuge in foreign embassies and diplomatic compounds in China since March, dealing the government an embarrassing blow as it tries to balance its obligations to its ally, North Korea, with pressure from the international community to let asylum-seekers leave.

Liu did not say whether the three are suspected of smuggling North Koreans, though many from the North have been helped by South Koreans or foreigners sympathetic to their cause.

Update hourly