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Korean-American Pastor Comes Home

August 31, 1998

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A Korean-American pastor detained in North Korea for three months on spy charges returned home Monday after intricate negotiations involving three countries.

Looking healthy, the Rev. Kwang Duk Lee was mobbed by his grandchildren and camera crews upon arrival at Los Angeles International Airport.

``I am feeling just fine,″ Lee said following his 13-hour flight from Beijing, where he was transferred to from North Korea on Friday.

Asked if he intended to return to North Korea, he said, ``Maybe so, yes.″

Lee read a long statement that thanked the United States, China, the press and others who worked to free him.

North Korean officials accused Lee of posing as a businessman and spying for South Korea. But his daughter, Jenny Lee Yamada, said the North Koreans emphasized that they took good care of Lee.

The 73-year-old Christian minister 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 food deliveries.

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 payment amount.

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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