Dear Minister Zhang:
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing once again to draw your attention to the unjust imprisonment of South Korean photographer Jae Hyun Seok, whose appeal may be heard later this month. Seok, a well-known free-lance photojournalist who worked regularly for The New York Times and Geo magazine, among other publications, was arrested in January in Shandong Province while documenting the plight of North Korean refugees. On May 22, he was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of human smuggling.
Seok’s imprisonment is a matter of international concern, and was raised this week during high-level talks between South Korean and Chinese officials. South Korean foreign minister Yoon Young Kwan made a formal request of his Chinese counterpart, Minister Li Zhaoxing, asking your government to release Seok. This request was made on the sidelines of South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun’s state visit to Beijing, where talks have centered on North Korea.
Chinese authorities arrested Seok on January 18, in Yantai, Shandong, while he was photographing North Korean refugees attempting to board two fishing boats bound for South Korea and Japan. Seok was documenting the boatlift operation as a part of a journalistic project, according to colleagues and friends who had spoken to him before he left for China.
CPJ believes Seok is still being held in Yantai Prison while he awaits his appeal. Although he has had occasional access to legal counsel, he is not allowed to receive other visitors, including family members.
As an independent organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, CPJ urges your government to release Jae Hyun Seok immediately and unconditionally. Seok has committed no crime under international law. He was simply carrying out an important journalistic obligation to report the news.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We await your response.
Ann K. Cooper