Seoul (AsiaNews) - A South Korean Baptist missionary has been sentenced by a North
Korean court to hard labor for life for espionage, underground religious
activities and offenses against the "dignity of the supreme leadership".
The news was published today by North Korean press, referring to a trial that took place yesterday in the capital against Kim Jeong- wook, who apparently "confessed his crimes".
The regime's news agency, KCNA, reports that Kim illegally entered the North, with the intention of setting up an underground church and gathering information about the internal affairs of Pyongyang. The public prosecutor had demanded the death penalty , but the sentence imposed was prison and hard labor for life.
Kim, 50, had been working for a long time in the city of Dandung on the border with China when he was arrested last October. Seoul's intelligence services denied that Kim is involved in espionage , after the missionary appeared on state television (in the North) confessing his "crimes".
Kim is charged with "religious acts, malignantly hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership".
All forms of
religion are banned under the regime of Kim Jong-un, except that of worshipping
the ruling dynasty. In
the North's capital, there are three churches - two Protestant and one Catholic
- but they are believed to be a front for tourists and non-governmental
organizations . No
priests or religious are present, only officials of the associations
established by the government to control the religions.
In Pyongyang, another missionary, the U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae, is serving a sentence of 15 years hard labor for the same reasons.
A few months ago, another missionary, the Australian John Short, was expelled after a period in prison for distributing religious materials.