Man held in S. Korea for promoting book

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U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) was expected to meet with the South Korean ambassador Wednesday to discuss the arrest of a Rockaway man detained there since late February for promoting the publication of a book about the reunification of the two Koreas.

“It’s seems kind of odd that he would be arrested just for publishing this book,” said Jordan Golden, a spokesman for Ackerman, in an interview Monday. “We’ve demanded his release and we’re going to be meeting with the South Korean ambassador at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Washington.”

Sam Song, 55, was arrested on Feb. 27 in Seoul, South Korea, after traveling there to testify on behalf of a man who was publishing a book about the reunification of the Koreas, said Solmon Song, his 19-year-old son, in a telephone interview Tuesday.

His father, a naturalized U.S. citizen who emigrated from South Korea 20 years ago, has always advocated the rejoining of the Koreas, which were separated into two regimes in 1948. He recently began supporting the publication of the book, entitled “Kim Jong Il’s Reunification Strategy,” which refers to the president of North Korea, Song said.

Song said his father, who founded a center in Flushing two years ago that teaches Korean culture, asked a publishing house in South Korea to put the book into print, a violation, he said, of the country’s National Security Law. At a hearing on the issue, the publisher who had testified was arrested, and his attorney requested that Sam Song fly to Seoul to furnish the court with further details about the book, as well as to confirm that he in fact wanted it published.

Then on Feb. 27, around midnight, the Songs received a fax from the South Korean government informing them that Sam Song had been arrested, his son said.

“We want him back because he is a U.S. citizen,” Song said. “We hope it’s being handled well, but based on what has happened so far, it’s not turning out so great.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, Christopher Lamora, said he could not offer details of Song’s arrest because he had not waived his right under the Federal Privacy Act to discuss the case with reporters. He did say, however, that consul officers in Seoul have met with and continue to visit Song.

Solmon Song said he and his mother, Young Sook, have been exchanging letters with Sam Song by facsimile. “He says he’s OK, but there are problems,” Song’s son said. In their correspondences, Sam Song reported that the condition of the prison cells in Seoul were poor, his son said, but he was being given food and drink.

Lamora said the South Korean government notified the Department of State “quite expeditiously” about Song’s arrest, but could not provide an exact date. Though unfamiliar with the specific international laws involving cases of detainment between the Koreas and the United States, Lamora said that in general, if a country detains a U.S. citizen, it must give notification within a prescribed amount of time.

If Sam Song is tried for breach of National Security Law and is convicted, the penalty could range from one year in prison to execution, his son said.

Ackerman’s spokesman said the congressman has involved himself in the case because he is a member of the Asia Subcommittee, which sets foreign policy for those countries. Another Queens congressman, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), whose district encompasses much of Queens’ Korean-American population, has also been watching the developments of Song’s detainment with keen interest, said Joshua Straka, the congressman’s spokesman.

“We have been in touch with the State Department on a daily basis and the embassy,” Straka said. “There have been no new developments from last week. This is clearly something we’re very interested in because of issues of family reunificat­ion.”

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), who represents Song’s district, did not return a telephone message seeking comment.

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at, or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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