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Seoul expels author for 'praising' North Korea

January 10, 2015

Author Shin Eun-Mi is set to be deported from South Korea for "praising" Pyongyang in a recent lecture. The Korea Immigration Service says Shin's comments violated Seoul's national security law.

California-resident Shin Eun-mi, center, talks to the reporters at Seoul District Prosecutors' Office in Seoul, South Korea (AP Photo/Yonhap, Park Ji-ho)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Park Ji-ho

The 54-year-old author said she was being forced to leave the country supposedly for her pro-North comments in a November lecture.

Shin told the media she would be flying out of Seoul on Saturday evening, but hoped to return at some point. It's been reported that she has been barred from coming back to South Korea for five years.

"I feel as if I were betrayed by my lover," she told reporters after coming out of the office of the Korea Immigration Service in Seoul.

"They can deport my body but they cannot deport by mind loving this country," she said Saturday, adding she would continue to "pray for peace and reunification of the fatherland."

'Tasteless beers' and Kim's 'praise'

California-resident Shin angered the South Korean authorities when she said a number of North Koreans living in South Korea would prefer to return to their home country because of the frustration with their lives in the South. She also said that many North Koreans were hopeful the communist nation's young leader Kim Jong-Un would improve the quality of life in the hermit state.

The writer also praised North Korean beer, which she said was better than the South's "tasteless" brews.

Responding to the allegations, Shin, who has documented her several trips to North Korea in the form of articles for online media and a book, said she was only expressing what she had witnessed during her trips to the North.

Rare US criticism

Praising North Korea is a crime punishable byup to seven years in prison in South Korea under the country's National Security Law.

The two Koreas remain in a state of war, having never signed a peace treaty. The two countries split during the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice.

The US State Department's spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said Washington had been keeping a close eye on Shin's case. She said the South Korean officials had barred Shin from exiting the country for three weeks.

In a rare criticism of its key ally, the US official said Seoul's security law restricted freedom of expression, despite its generally strong human rights record.

South Korea's liberal sections claim the conservative government of President Park Geun-Hye is clamping down on freedom of speech.

shs/gb (AFP, AP)