SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea has released 21-year-old Won-moon Joo, a South Korean student at New York University who had been detained since April, the South Korean government said.
“I hope to go back home safely,” Joo told CNN in May.
The student was handed over to South Korean officials at the border on Monday afternoon, Seoul said.
In an interview with CNN in Pyongyang in May, Joo said he had been arrested by soldiers after crossing into North Korea from China to make a statement.
"I thought that by my entrance to the DPRK -- illegally, I acknowledge -- I thought that some great event could happen and hopefully that event could have a good effect on the relations" between the two Koreas, Joo told CNN's Will Ripley, using an abbreviation of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Joo said at the time he wasn't sure what kind of great event could happen as a result of his actions.
A permanent resident of the United States, Joo had been living in New Jersey and studying at New York University. He took a semester off to travel across the United States and said he went to North Korea after an unsuccessful attempt to find work in California.
A former teacher of Joo's at Tenafly High School described him today as competitive, polite and an excellent student. He played basketball, flag football and was on the math league in high school. Officials from both his alma mater and NYU stated today that they are excited to hear he is OK.
"He and his family have been in our thoughts. We're relieved to learn of his release and glad for this good outcome,” said NYU spokesman John Beckman.
South Korea’s government stated that they are also relieved Joo has been freed, but the country is still urging the North to release three other citizens of the South that they are holding.
It may not be an entirely happy return for the student.
South Korea's National Intelligence Service said it will investigate whether Joo violated national security law.