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Pols fight for release of Rockaway resident

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Two elected officials from Queens have sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell asking him to negotiate the release of a Rockaway man jailed in South Korea, apparently for promoting a book that supports North Korea’s plan for unifying the two Koreas.

But U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who wrote the cautiously worded letter, said Sam Song should be released if he is charged only with supporting the publishing of a book.

“Democratic countries don’t imprison people for their point of view,” Ackerman said. “If Mr. Song is guilty of something else besides publishing this book, then the South Korean government should charge him with the specifics.”

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, his son Solmon said in an interview earlier this month. Song, who lives in the Rockaways with his wife and two children, owns a candy store in Brooklyn and heads a political organization in Flushing that promotes reunification.

Although Song was indicted April 5 on charges of violating the country’s National Security Law, the South Korean embassy has declined to specify precisely what crime Song was said to have committed. In addition, Song visited a brother in North Korea, although his son insists the trip was entirely legal.

Song, a naturalized citizen who immigrated to the United States 20 years ago, has always advocated the rejoining of the Koreas, which were separated into two regimes in 1948, his son said. The framework of reunification that Song is said to espouse is set forth in a book called “Kim Jong Il’s Reunification Strategy,” which refers to the North Korean president and his plan.

In their April 8 letter to Powell, Schumer and Ackerman ask him to intervene in the matter, which so far has been handled by the State Department. “If the charges against Mr. Song solely involve his role in helping publish a book,” the letter said, “we request that the State Department take every possible step to secure his immediate release.”

A spokesman for the South Korean consulate in New York, Kang Soo Seo, confirmed that Song was charged with violating the National Security Law of the country, but he could not provide the specific charges in the indictment. He referred further comment to the South Korean Embassy in Washington, D.C. A spokeswoman for the Embassy said there was no one there Monday afternoon to discuss the case.

“South Korean authorities have had Mr. Song in custody for almost six weeks and even indicted him without a single public statement of what he is being charged with,” Schumer said.

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

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