South Korean journalists arrested for filming refugees

New York, August 21, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the continued detention of South Korean journalists Kim Seung Jin and Geum Myeong Seok in Shanghai.

On August 7, Shanghai police arrested Kim and Geum as they were filming North Korean refugees who were attempting to gain asylum by forcibly entering a school run by the Japanese government. Police also detained Japanese citizen Fumiaka Yamada and South Korean citizen Kim Gi Ju, both of whom work with the Japan-based Society to Help Returnees to North Korea (HRNK), and seven North Korean refugees, including two children, according to HRNK.

Kim is a freelance cameraman whose footage has been used by television networks in Japan and South Korea, according to a former colleague of Kim’s. Kim, who now lives in New Zealand, has spent the last several months in China, where he has been reporting on North Korean refugees. Geum is a freelance photographer.

On August 12, a spokesperson for the Shanghai government confirmed the arrests, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. According to the Xinhua report, the detainees were suspected of “organizing illegal border crossings and attempting to forcefully enter a foreign school in Shanghai.”

Three South Korean journalists are now in prison in China. In January 2003, authorities in Yantai, a town in China’s eastern Shandong Province arrested South Korean photographer Jae Hyun Seok as he filmed North Korean refugees attempting to board boats bound for South Korea and Japan. On May 22, Seok was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of “human trafficking.”

“Once again, Chinese leaders have used draconian measures to silence any news about the plight of North Korean refugees inside China,” said CPJ’s executive director Ann Cooper. “Like Jae Hyun Seok, Kim Seung Jin and Geum Myeong Seok are in prison for documenting a story of great humanitarian importance. We demand their immediate release.”