North Korea has released and deported a South Korean citizen who was arrested back in April for illegal entry, reports say.

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

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

The release of Joo comes 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.

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

 
He had appeared on 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 announcement of Joo's release 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 [Reuters]

Source: Agencies