Joo Won-moon, the 21-year-old NYU student who illegally crossed the Chinese border into North Korea last month, told CNN's Will Ripley today that he wanted to be arrested, and is doing pretty well these days all things considered. The interview was Joo's first contact with anyone outside of North Korea since his arrest.
Joo, a resident of New Jersey and junior at NYU's Stern School of Business, told Ripley a decidedly bizarre story about how he ended up in North Korea in the first place. Unable to find work in California during his semester off, Joo decided that he might as well go to China and hike from the Great Wall, over the border, into North Korea. CNN reports that Joo managed to scale two barbed wire fences and cross a wide river before North Korean police officers arrested him.
Joo welcomed the arrest, hoping, rather grandiosely, that it would make a big splash. He told Ripley, "I thought that by my entrance—illegally I acknowledge... some great event could happen, and that event could affect the relations between the North and South."
As for what that event would be, Joo admitted, "Of course I am not completely sure yet."
For now, he says he's hanging in there, with a private bathroom and balanced meals. "The people here have treated me with the best humanitarian treatment," He said, "I have slept well and been fed well and have been healthy." Television and internet, however, are not among his perks.
Even Ripley seemed surprised by Joo's laid-back attitude. He told CNN talking-heads today, "He was very relaxed. In fact, he smiled when he walked into the room to speak with us. He didn't seem too concerned by the fact that he could face very serious charges for admittedly illegally entering North Korea."
The NY Times points out that North Korea has been known to grant foreign news outlets interviews with American detainees who "have said they were being treated well."
Ever the chill millennial, Joo urged everyone to please not worry. "I know my friends and loved ones are worrying a lot about me," he said. "But I would like to say that I am well, and there is no need to worry." Also, "I hope that I will be able to tell how an ordinary college student entered the DPRK illegally, but with the generous treatment of the DPRK, I will be able to return home safely."
Joo is a South Korean national—the fourth to be detained by North Korea—and South Korea's Unification Ministry is demanding his immediate return. A Ministry spokesman issued a statement this morning, to NPR:
"It is deeply regrettable that North Korea is detaining Joo Won-moon, who is a South Korean national, without any explanation to our government and his family. The government strongly demands the North immediately release Joo and return him to the arms of his family."