In this photo provided by the South Korean Unification Ministry, South Korean Won Moon Joo, center, who has a permanent resident status in the United States, is escorted by a South Korean official at the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. North Korea freed a South Korean national who'd been attending New York University before his detention, Seoul officials said Monday, in a possible sign Pyongyang wants better ties with rival Seoul and may back away from a recent threat to launch a long-range rocket later this month. (The South Korean Unification Ministry via AP)
North Korea releases NYU student
01:42 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

South Korea's National Intelligence Service says it will investigate whether the student violated national security law

Won-moon Joo has said he crossed into North Korea to make a statement

A permanent resident of the U.S., he took a semester off from NYU to travel

Seoul, South Korea CNN  — 

North Korea has released Won-moon Joo, a South Korean student at New York University whom it detained in April.

The student was handed over to South Korean officials at the border Monday afternoon, Seoul said. North Korea said it had deported Joo as a “humanitarian measure.”

In an interview with CNN in Pyongyang in May, Joo said he had been arrested by soldiers after crossing into North Korea from China to make a statement.

“I thought that by my entrance to the DPRK – illegally, I acknowledge – I thought that some great event could happen and hopefully that event could have a good effect on the relations” between the two Koreas, Joo told CNN’s Will Ripley, using an abbreviation of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Joo, who is in his early 20s, said at the time that he wasn’t sure what kind of great event could happen as a result of his actions.

A permanent resident of the United States, Joo had been living in New Jersey and studying at New York University. He took a semester off to travel across the United States and said he went to North Korea after an unsuccessful attempt to find work in California.

North Korea said at the time that the student’s illegal entry was “a serious violation” of its laws.

New York University welcomed news of Joo’s release.

“He and his family have been in our thoughts. We’re relieved to learn of his release and glad for this good outcome,” spokesman John Beckman said.

The South Korean Unification Ministry said in a statement that it was relieved Joo was released but urged North Korea to free three other South Korean citizens it’s holding.

It may not be an entirely happy return for the student.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said it will investigate whether Joo violated national security law.

CNN’s K.J. Kwon reported from Seoul, and Jethro Mullen wrote from Hong Kong. CNN’s David Shortell contributed to this report.