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Korean-American Pastor To Come Home

August 31, 1998

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The family of a Korean-American pastor detained in North Korea for three months on spy charges hopes he won’t return to the communist country anytime soon.

The Rev. Kwang Duk Lee, who was moved from North Korea to China on Friday, was scheduled to arrive for a homecoming in Los Angeles today.

Once Lee returns, the family hopes to ``keep him put,″ his daughter, Jenny Lee Yamada, said by telephone from her Los Angeles area home. ``But I’m sure he’ll continue to try to help people in the country there.″

Lee’s homecoming would mark the end of a protracted dispute with North Korean officials, who had accused him of posing as a businessman and spying for South Korea, a charge his family has denied.

``The North Koreans really emphasized they took good care of him. They said they fed him three first-class meals a day, made sure he was seen by doctors and made sure he got regular exercise,″ his daughter said.

The 73-year-old Christian minister from the Los Angeles suburb of Lomita was on his 18th visit to North Korea since 1989 and was trying to arrange financing for a soybean factory there when he was detained in May, his family has said. He frequently visited there to talk about Christianity and arrange for deliveries of food and goods.

The North Koreans demanded $122,000 for Lee’s release, but agreed to release him after collecting money from the family to cover expenses the government incurred while holding Lee, Ms. Yamada said. The family declined to disclose the amount of the payment.

Lee was allowed into China on Friday morning and telephoned his wife as soon as he could, Ms. Yamada said.

Lee’s release reportedly was arranged at a high-level meeting between U.S. and North Korean representatives in New York two weeks ago. The United States and North Korea have no diplomatic relations but the two countries have unofficial channels of government contact.

The Korean peninsula was divided into the communist North and the capitalist South in 1945. They remain technically at war, having signed no peace treaty at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

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