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North Korea Condemns South Korean Missionary to Hard Labor for Life

According to North Korean media and The Christian Post, South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook has been sentenced in North Korea to a life of hard labor for spying and setting up underground churches. The North Korean defense attorney reported that Kim “sincerely repented of his crimes and apologized” in an effort to commute the death sentence prosecutors demanded. During the trial, the defense produced “evidence such as religious books, memory cards, sex CDs and spying devices carried by the accused for criminal purposes.”

Kim, arrested in October while entering North Korea from China, is said to have helped North Koreans defect to South Korea. Recently, Kim had turned more to providing food and shelter to North Koreans who had received permission to go to China to look for jobs, often unsuccessfully, leaving them with no income and nowhere to go.

In late February, North Korea presented Kim to the media. Kim appealed to North Korea to show him mercy, telling reporters that he had requested the press conference so his family would see that he was in good health. Kim said he worked closely with South Korean intelligence agencies and had been paid thousands of dollars for his service.

South Korean intelligence officials have denied any relationship with Kim. The NY Daily News reported that North Korean authorities have in the past held press conferences where detainees make statements they later recant.

Christian groups report there are at least 100,000 Christians in North Korea’s prison camps, where inmates face torture, forced labor and possible execution.