Dutch stamp dealer held for 2 weeks by North Korea

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The Dutch foreign ministry says it is unable to confirm that Utrecht stamp dealer Wim van der Bijl was detained by North Korea for two weeks before returning to the Netherlands on Saturday.

A spokesperson said the foreign ministry never comments on individual cases. However, a friend of the family told local television channel RTV Utrecht that Van der Bijl was held on suspicion of subversive activities. He said Van der Bijl was interrogated for two weeks before being put on a plane to Beijing on Saturday.

Mr Van der Bijl, who has visited the country a number of times at the invitation of North Korean business partners, was originally scheduled to return to the Netherlands on 30 July.

His Dutch business associate Ronald de Groen raised the alarm when he failed to appear for the return flight. At the time, Mr De Groen had not spoken to Mr Van der Bijl for some weeks because foreigners have to hand in their mobile phones when they enter North Korea.

In the past few weeks, the foreign ministry repeatedly contacted the North Korean authorities to inquire after the whereabouts and the wellbeing of Van der Bijl. ,,We are glad he was able to leave the country,” the spokesperson said.

During his absence, the North Korean state newspaper Pyongyang Times published an article in which the Dutchman expressed a positive opinion about the elections held in North Korea at the end of July. The article featured a photograph of the stamp dealer, but did not provide any information regarding his whereabouts.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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