Seoul ( AsiaNews) - North Korean authorities this
morning released 75 year old Australian missionary John Short, arrested on
February 16 on charges of "illegally distributing religious material". Short,
who has lived for decades in Hong Kong with his wife, arrived a little while
ago at Beijing airport. He
said he was "very, very tired," and added that for now, he "intends
only to rest". Pyongyang
released him "in consideration of his age" and "in light of the
fact that he confessed his crimes and apologized. This is a generous decision".
In regime's official KCNA press statement reads: "John Short committed a criminal act by secretly spreading his Bible tracts around a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang. He admitted that his activities were criminal acts hurting the Korean people's absolute trust in their leader, violating the independent right of North Korea. He earnestly requested the forgiveness. North Korea decided to expel him from the territory, thanks to the tolerance of the law and in full consideration of his age".
Currently there are still two other Protestant missionaries in the hands of the regime led by Kim Jong-un: American Kenneth Bae, sentenced in May 2013 to 15 years in prison for " hostile acts against the nation" and South Korean Kim Jeong- wook, arrested in October 2013, who disappeared altogether until February 27, when he appeared at a press conference to "admit his crimes" and ask for "forgiveness of the State". Pyongyang has rejected the request for his release made by the Seoul Government, but has not yet announced whether he will be prosecuted for such crimes.
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.