Seoul ( AsiaNews) - A South Korean Baptist missionary arrested in October 2013 by the authorities in Pyongyang (and missing without trace since then) reappeared today on national television in Seoul. Kim Jeong -wook, dressed in black and appearing to be in good physical shape, "confessed his crimes" during a press conference organized by the regime: " Acting on behalf of NIS [ the intelligence services of the South author's note ] I have tried to overthrow the government of North Korea. I am sorry for my actions and I call on the authorities to have mercy on me". He is not the only missionary still in the hands of the North's government, others include John Short, a 75 year old Australian missionary, and Kenneth Bae, a U.S. citizen sentenced to 15 years for "subversive activities".
Kim, 50, was arrested the very
same day he entered North Korea by crossing the border with China. According
to the agents of the Stalinist regime, he was carrying Bibles and "other
Christian religious materials". Immediately
after his arrest Pyongyang announced it had captured a "spy", but
since then did not mention the missionary's name again. For
its part, the NIS has denied any involvement from the outset.
During the press conference, a usual practice orchestrated by the North to show "spies and traitors" to the people of the whole peninsula Kim added: "I received money from the intelligence services and followed instructions from them, and arranged North Koreans to act as their spies. And I also set up an underground church in China, in Dandong, and got the members to talk and write, for me to collect details about the reality of life in North Korea, and I provided this to the intelligence services. My actions constitute a crime, but I have not been mistreated in prison". It is not clear what punishment the missionary risks, given that the government of the North has not commented on the press conference.
The North Korean constitution guarantees religious freedom on paper, but in fact it does not exist in the country. The only form of religiosity permitted by the government is the cult of personality of the dictator and his ancestors: Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are revered semi- deities, and the incumbent leader Kim Jong-un their direct descendant. In Pyongyang there are three churches - two Protestant and one Catholic - but they are considered a facade for tourists and non-governmental organizations. There are no resident priests or religious, but only officials of the associations established by the government to control the religions.
The young man, sentenced to 15 years of forced labor in March 2016, is reportedly in a coma. US and South Korean citizens used as commodity exchanges in diplomatic relations. Three Americans and six Koreans still in jail in the North. Among them Protestant missionaries, accused of espionage or betrayal. The South pushes for the reopening of dialogue.