Canada trying to free citizen jailed in N.K.

SEOUL, Jan. 24 (Yonhap) -- A Korean-born Canadian aid worker has been jailed in North Korea for nearly three months on charges related to "national security" and Canadian authorities seem to be in talks with Pyongyang about his release, a media report said Thursday.

The Toronto Star, a Canadian daily, reported that Ted Lipman, Canada's ambassador to South Korea who doubles as his country's representative to the North, is on a trip to Pyongyang apparently aimed at winning the release of Kim Je-yell, a dental technician in his 50s.

Yonhap News Agency left a message on the answering machine of the Canadian embassy in Seoul to confirm the report, but had yet to receive a response.

A spokesman at the Canadian Foreign Ministry later confirmed the envoy's ongoing visit to Pyongyang, saying it is a routine one, according to AFP.

"Ambassador Lipman is there to discuss a range of issues, including denuclearization, inter-Korean relations, multilateral humanitarian assistance, and human rights with North Korean officials," the spokesman was quoted as saying.

Kim was taken into custody on Nov. 3 in a remote northeastern area of the communist nation after years of providing dental care to residents, the daily quoted his family as saying.

Family members and Kim's friends have petitioned the Canadian government to make efforts to have him released, it added.

No accurate data is available on the number of people held in North Korean prison camps on national security grounds, but some estimates put it at around 200,000.

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english.yonhapnews  (Posted 1/26/08)