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Tenafly residents detained in North Korea says he crossed into country on purpose


Won Moon Joo in a photo from his 2012 Tenafly High School yearbook.

MAY 4, 2015, 9:02 AM    LAST UPDATED: TUESDAY, MAY 5, 2015, 10:06 AM

TENAFLY — An interview that CNN aired Tuesday morning with a Tenafly college student detained in North Korea shed little light on why he entered the country or what will happen to him.

Won Moon Joo, 21, told CNN that he purposely crossed into North Korea from China, passing two barbed wire fences and a river before he was stopped by soldiers. Asked why: “I thought by my entrance — illegally I acknowledge — I thought some great event could happen and hopefully that event could have a good effect in the relations between the north and south,” he said, appearing relaxed and even smiling during the interview.

The interview did little to answer the questions that have swirled in North Jersey’s Korean neighborhoods since North Korea announced Joo’s arrest on Saturday for having illegally entered the country. In community centers, groceries and media offices, people have been asking how he ended up in such a terrible situation and worrying for his family.

It’s a nightmare for any family — hearing that a son with so much promise travels abroad and takes a risky action that ends with him in prison. North Korea’s government detained Joo on April 22, and while South Korea is fighting on his behalf, his fate remains unclear.

“I hope I will be able to tell the world how an ordinary college student entered the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) illegally, however with the generous treatment of the DPRK that I will able to return home safely,” he said in the interview.

Joo also told CNN he has had no access to phone or Internet and has not been able to talk to anyone from the U.S. or South Korean governments yet, but has been treated well.

“I’ve been fed well. I have slept well and I have been very healthy. I would just like to apologize for creating a lot of worry among my loved ones,” he said in the interview.

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