An American jailed on spy charges for three months in North Korea was freed today and arrived in Japan with the U.S. congressman who negotiated his release.
Evan C. Hunziker, 26, of Tacoma, Wash., stepped off a U.S. Air Force jet at Yokota Air Base on the outskirts of Tokyo. He waved to reporters but did not smile and ignored shouted questions about how he felt.
Rep. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), who got off the plane with Hunziker, raised Hunziker's hands in the air. The freed captive then boarded a car that took him to a base clinic for a medical checkup. Richardson said Hunziker probably would return home in time for Thanksgiving.
Richardson, who arrived in North Korea on Monday night to begin the negotiations for Hunziker's release, said about $5,000 was paid for the two months that the captive was kept in a hotel.
Hunziker had been detained since Aug. 24, when he crossed the border from China into North Korea. North Korea accused him of spying for South Korea. The United States called the spy charges "absolutely ludicrous" and demanded his release,
Richardson quoted Hunziker as saying he was treated in a humanitarian manner. Richardson also praised North Korea for freeing him and said the isolated communist government appeared ready to improve strained relations with the United States and South Korea.
Hunziker initially was scheduled to be released Tuesday, but complications that U.S. officials declined to explain delayed his release by a day.
His father, Edwin Hunziker, was overjoyed by his son's release. "It's a great relief to know that he's out of their hands," the elder Hunziker said in a telephone interview from Tacoma. "I'm just real happy he's out of that place."
Relatives had speculated that Evan Hunziker entered North Korea out of missionary zeal, hoping to convert North Koreans to Christianity. They said he became religious during a jail sentence last year for drunken driving.