SEOUL (AFP) – Libya has released a South Korean Christian pastor arrested for allegedly violating religious laws as Tripoli promised to end a months-long diplomatic row with Seoul, the foreign ministry said Sunday.
The pastor and another South Korean national accused of aiding him were set free on Saturday night, Seoul’s foreign ministry spokesman told AFP.
The two men were handed over to their families in the presence of the South Korean ambassador to Libya, he said.
The pastor was arrested in June on charges of bringing Christian books and other materials for missionary work into the Muslim country in violation of religious laws.
Another South Korean man was accused of helping finance the pastor’s religious activities and was arrested a month later.
Ties between the two nations soured after Libya expelled a South Korean intelligence official in June for allegedly trying to collect information on Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, his family and leading bureaucrats.
Libya has suspended operations at its de facto embassy in Seoul, forcing South Korean businessmen to go overseas if they want visas for Libya.
Relations were further strained by the arrest of the South Korean Christian pastor and by media coverage of the country.
But the two countries agreed to put an end to the feud during a visit by Lee Sang-Deuk, a brother of South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, to the North African country.
At Thursday’s talks with Lee, Kadhafi agreed to end the “unsavory” row and to expand friendly ties with South Korea, the foreign ministry said Friday.
The Libyan leader also promised to help South Korean firms do business in the country, Yonhap news agency said.
Before the row, Seoul and Tripoli had built strong economic ties since establishing diplomatic relations in 1980.
South Korean companies have worked on nearly 300 construction projects worth a total of 35 billion dollars in Libya since 1978, according to data from Seoul.