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Top envoy to Moscow meets deputy Russian FM over detained S. Korean national

By Yonhap

Published : March 13, 2024 - 20:46

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The main building of the Russian Foreign Ministry in the background of this picture taken in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday. (TASS) The main building of the Russian Foreign Ministry in the background of this picture taken in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday. (TASS)

MOSCOW -- South Korea's top envoy to Russia asked for Moscow's cooperation in relation to the arrest of a South Korean national in Russia reportedly on espionage charges, according to the South Korean Embassy in Moscow on Wednesday.

Ambassador Lee Do-hoon met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko and requested the Russian government actively cooperate to ensure the safety and protect the rights of the South Korean national, the embassy said.

The meeting took place at the embassy's request.

Russia's TASS news agency reported Monday that the South Korean, surnamed Baek, has been held in the Lefortovo detention facility in Moscow since late February on charges that he handed over classified information to foreign intelligence agencies.

It reported citing law information officials that a court extended his detention until mid-June.

The foreign ministry in Seoul said it has been in communication with Moscow over the matter and has been providing necessary consular assistance to the South Korean national.

Baek, a missionary with a South Korean humanitarian group named the Global Love Rice Sharing Foundation, was working in Vladivostok at the time of the arrest, mostly engaged in helping North Korean defectors flee and providing them with other assistance.

The foundation rejected the spying charges against Baek and claimed he has been wrongfully accused.

"Spying charges are either a misunderstanding, or have a political purpose," Lee Sun-koo, head of the foundation, located in Incheon, west of Seoul, told Yonhap by phone.

Lee described Baek as a man who has been devoted to his job of providing basic needs like food, clothes and medicine to vulnerable groups and foreign laborers.

"Suspicions that he helped with North Koreans' defection are all just outrageous," Lee said.

Lee said the foundation will actively seek ways to get Baek released, starting with filing a petition calling for his release with the foreign ministry and the Russian Embassy in Seoul. (Yonhap)