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South Korean Missionary 'Confesses' to Spying in Pyongyang

A South Korean Christian missionary confessed Thursday to trying to overthrow the North Korean government at the behest of Seoul.

Kim Jung Wook is at least the third Christian evangelist being detained by North Korea, which views unauthorized religious workers as spies.

His comments came during a news conference in Pyongyang, where he said he was arrested in October with Bibles and other religious material.

"I was thinking of turning North Korea into a religious country, and destroying its present government and political system. I received money from the (South Korean) 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."

South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do said the Baptist missionary was involved in "purely religious activities" and called for him to be released.

"Our government has requested several times to confirm our person's identity as well as to release and repatriate him, but the North consistently hadn't responded, but just now revealed his identity. It is the antithesis of humanitarianism."

Pyongyang said in November it had arrested what it called a South Korean spy. Only later did it become clear the detainee was the 50-year-old Kim.

Even before Seoul's denial, Kim's statements regarding his alleged espionage were in question, as North Korea often requires foreign detainees to read confessions to improve their chances of being freed.

Kim told the cameras Thursday that after entering the country from China, he encouraged North Koreans to smash the statues depicting Pyongyang leaders and replace them with "big churches."

He also said he told North Koreans that "peace does not rely on weapons, but love, and that the North will be destroyed if it doesn't open up, that peace is not decided by nuclear weapons but by God."

The news comes days after 75-year-old Australian missionary John Short was detained in North Korea. Australian officials said Thursday their efforts to find out more about Short's condition have proven unsuccessful.

His wife, Karen Short, told VOA that on a previous visit to the communist nation, her husband had passed out Christian religious materials, but that he did not have political motivations.

In addition, 45-year-old Korean-American Kenneth Bae is currently serving a 15-year sentence of hard labor after being found guilty of trying to overthrow the government.

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