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Dissident who fled China by jet ski convicted of illegal entry in South Korea

SEOUL (AFP) – A dissident who escaped China on a jet ski was convicted of illegal entry by a South Korean court yesterday but given a suspended jail sentence, his representative said.

Kwon Pyong embarked on a more than 300-kilometre journey in August, when he crossed the Yellow Sea on a 1,800cc jet ski from Shandong province, using binoculars and a compass to navigate and towing five barrels of fuel.

When his jet ski got stuck in tidal flats near South Korea’s western port city of Incheon, he called for rescue and was taken into a detention centre, where he has been held awaiting a trial for illegal entry.

Kwon was an activist and spent time in jail in China for subversion, said South Korea-based human rights activist with Dialogue China Lee Dae-seon.

Yesterday, the Incheon District Court convicted Kwon of an illegal entry and sentenced him to one year in prison suspended for two years – which effectively put an end to his three-month-long detention.

PHOTO: ENVATO

“The defendant tried to enter the country without a permit and is also accused of dispensing waste into the sea,” the court said in its ruling, according to Yonhap news agency.

The court said it gave him a suspended term as Kwon had not committed any previous offences in South Korea.

Kwon has also applied for refugee status in the South, and is awaiting the decision, rights activist Lee told AFP.

South Korea only grants a handful of refugees asylum each year.

Given Seoul’s low acceptance rate, Kwon is also willing to seek refugee status in a third country such as Canada and the United States, Lee said.

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