Kim Jong-uk, a Baptist missionary to North Korea, apologized to reporters at a government-sponsored news conference for his “anti-state crime.” The missionary is one of several to be detained recently in what some are calling a crackdown on Christianity in the country.
As the New York Times reports, this is not the first such incident of this nature:
“The North Korean government has used such news conferences in Pyongyang or interviews with the Choson Sinbo [sic], a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, to let Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary held in the North since late 2012, speak to the outside world. Mr. Bae has also said that he apologized for his anti-North Korean ‘crime,’ for which he was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor last year, and appealed for Washington’s intervention to win his release.
“Analysts have said that the North was using the news conferences to draw interest to the predicament of the detainees and force Washington to engage the North in dialogue.
“Mr. Kim told the news conference on Thursday that he entered the North with Bibles and other religious materials and movies on Oct. 7 and was arrested the following day. Before that, he said he was running an underground church in the Chinese city of Dandong, just over the North Korean border, to collect data from North Korean refugees that he would hand over to the South Korean intelligence agency. He received several thousand dollars from the agency, he said.”
South Korean officials denied the charges of espionage. Spokesman Kim Eui-do of the Unification Ministry told reporters, “It is hard to understand that (North Korea) calls our national, who is doing purely religious activities, an anti-state criminal.”
The Communist country also detained Australian missionary John Short last month for carrying religious materials.