North Korea has announced it is releasing and deporting a South Korean citizen who was arrested back in April for illegal entry, according to South Korea's unification ministry.

Joo Won-moon, a 21-year-old student at New York University and holding a US green card, was to be repatriated through the border truce village of Panmunjom on the inter-Korean border at around 5:30pm (08:30 GMT) on Monday, the ministry said in a statement.

North Korea's Red Cross communicated the message about the imminent release, the ministry said.

The release of Joo will come just days before the North celebrates the 70th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party on Saturday.

Joo was caught crossing from the Chinese side of the Yalu River, North Korea's official KCNA news agency has said.

 

Joo had admitted to violating North Korean law, but he said he had been treated well by the North, KCNA said recently.

He has appeared in North Korean media and said he was in good health.

North Korea holds three other South Koreans and also a Korean-Canadian pastor, who was detained in February, and according to North Korean state media, confessed to crimes aimed at overthrowing the state.

South Korea welcomed the expected release of Joo and urged the North to free its other three nationals.

North Korea's highest court in June sentenced two of the South Koreans, who were accused of spying, to hard labour for life, calling the punishment a lesson for those who conspire with the US and South Korea.

North and South Korea agreed in August to improve ties after a standoff that threatened to become an armed conflict.

Later this month, families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean war will meet for a reunion, the 20th such event.

 North and South Korea agreed in August to improve ties after a standoff that threatened to become an armed conflict [AP]

Source: Agencies