News / Asia

    S. Korea Urges North to Release Detained Missionary

    Kim Jung-wook, a South Korean Baptist missionary, speaks during a news conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, Feb. 27, 2014.
    Kim Jung-wook, a South Korean Baptist missionary, speaks during a news conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, Feb. 27, 2014.
    Daniel Schearf
    South Korea has urged North Korea to repatriate Kim Jung-wook, one of its citizens detained for the last four months for Christian missionary activities. Pyongyang has accused the man of spying and trying to overthrow the government in the latest in a series of arrested missionaries.

    The South Korean Baptist missionary was paraded to the media earlier in the day in Pyongyang and revealed he was arrested in October.  In an apparent stage-managed confession, Kim admitted to trying to topple the North Korean government.   

    Kim professed to encouraging North Koreans to destroy statues of former North Korean leaders and build churches in their place.

    He said he was trying to turn North Korea into a religious country by destroying its present government and political system. He added that he received money from South Korea's intelligence service and followed their instructions, arranging North Koreans to act as their spies.

    Kim went on to say he set up an underground church across the border in Dandong, China, where he collected information from North Korean defectors for South Korea's National Intelligence Service or NIS.

    The NIS denies he was a secret agent.

    North Korea in November had said it detained a South Korean spy but refused to provide information or release the individual.

    South Korea's Ministry of Unification Thursday said North Korea's behavior was inhumane.

    Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do urged Pyongyang to behave responsibly and guarantee the safety of Kim Jung-wook.

    He says it is difficult to understand why North Korea considers their citizen, whose activities are purely religious, as a criminal against the country. He says the South Korean government strongly urges North Korea to immediately release their citizen and return him.

    Kim made his alleged confession sitting at a table under large portraits of North Korea's former leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

    The Associated Press, the only western news agency in Pyongyang, reports the media was not allowed to ask questions.

    Kim Young-hwan is an activist and researcher at the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights (NKNet). He was jailed in China in 2012 for helping defectors along the border and said the missionary, was probably pressured and threatened.

    He said North Korea does not want other religions to replace its self-reliance (Juche) ideology or the Kim Jong Un family. If it happens, he said, the system will be in danger so North Korea has a very hostile reaction to religion. Kim said North Korea has a very hostile attitude to missionary activity both in the country and targeting North Korean defectors in the border area.

    North Korea is holding American missionary Kenneth Bae who was detained in November 2012. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labor for attempting to topple the government.

    Last week North Korea arrested Australian missionary John Short after he left a Christian pamphlet in a Buddhist temple.

    It is not yet clear what charges the 75-year-old Short may be facing.

    VOA Seoul Bureau producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora