Monday 18 November 2019

North Korea to deport man detained for spreading Christianity

State says he 'apologised' for anti-state religious acts

North Korean soldiers on the march
North Korean soldiers on the march

North Korea is to deport an Australian missionary detained for spreading Christianity in the country, saying he apologised for his anti-state religious acts and asked for forgiveness.

Authorities in the reclusive communist state had been investigating John Short since his arrest for secretly spreading bible tracts near a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang on February 16, the birthday of late leader Kim Jong Il, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

The report said that Mr Short, 75, admitted he committed a crime that hurt the Korean people's trust in their leaders and apologised for his behaviour.

"I now realise the seriousness of my insult to the Korean people on February 16th because I made the Korean people angry and for this I truly apologise," he was quoted as saying in a written apology, according to a separate KCNA report.

"I am willing to bow down on my knees to request this tolerance of (North Korea) and the Korean people."

North Korea's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but in practice only sanctioned services are tolerated by the government. Defectors from the country have said that the distribution of bibles and secret prayer services can mean banishment to a labour camp or execution.

North Korea typically frees foreign detainees after they have admitted their crimes but many say after their releases that their confessions were given involuntarily and under duress.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was aware of reports on North Korea's announcement on Mr Short and was seeking to confirm them. Australia does not have an embassy in Pyongyang and is represented there by the Swedish embassy.

Mr Short, from Barmera, South Australia state, has been arrested several times while evangelising in mainland China, according to a biography on a Christian website, Gospel Attract.

He was banned from entering China for nearly two years after his second arrest in 1996. Authorities later let him back in and he was arrested several more times for "speaking out about the brutality against Chinese Christians", said the site.

His wife, Karen said he was visiting North Korea for the second time. His first trip was a year ago "so he knew what he was going into", she said.

PA Media

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