Thursday, February 25, 1999 Published at 16:08 GMT
'Happy to see the light'
Woo Yong-gak is welcomed by friends and relatives
A North Korean believed to be the world's longest-serving political prisoner has been freed by South Korea after 41 years of solitary confinement.
He was among 17 long-term political detainees released under an amnesty of 1,508 prisoners to mark President Kim Dae-jung's first year in office.
He bowed to the crowd and said: "For over 40 years, I've been in confinement. Now I'm very happy to see the light."
South Korean law specifies solitary confinement for spies, even if they pose no physical threat.
Most of the released political prisoners had been serving sentences for espionage or other activities linked to North Korea which has asked for them to be repatriated.
North Korea has asked for the return of the 17 nationals and went on to mark Thursday's release date - the annivesary of President Kim's inauguration - by attacking his record.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) accused the reformist president of "treachery".
South Korea's Defence Ministry estimates 234 PoWs are being held across the border.
Mr Woo, who said he was suffering from diabetes, did not comment on whether he wanted to return to North Korea.
He added only that he hoped the issue would be resolved in a "humanitarian way".
Human rights groups say that there are around 240 more political prisoners in jail in South Korea.