Skip to main content

Accused of spying and setting up church, South Korean sentenced in North Korea

updated 8:59 AM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
A North Korean soldier patrols the bank of the Yalu River, which separates the North Korean town of Sinuiju from the Chinese border town of Dandong, on Saturday, April 26. A recent <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/17/world/asia/north-korea-un-report/index.html'>United Nations report</a> described a brutal North Korean state "that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world." A North Korean soldier patrols the bank of the Yalu River, which separates the North Korean town of Sinuiju from the Chinese border town of Dandong, on Saturday, April 26. A recent United Nations report described a brutal North Korean state "that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world."
HIDE CAPTION
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • South Korean man sentenced to life in hard labor in North Korea
  • South Korean ministry criticizes sentencing and calls for Kim's release
  • Kim Jong Uk is accused of trying to set up underground churches in North Korea

(CNN) -- North Korea's Supreme Court has sentenced a South Korean man to life of hard labor for commiting "hostile acts" against the country, according to its state-run news agency, KCNA.

The South Korean, identified as Kim Jong Uk, averted the death sentence because he allegedly "repented of his crimes," which included an attempt to set up an underground church inside the country, according to KCNA.

Kim was charged with state subversion, espionage and anti-state propaganda, agitation and illegal entry into the border. The defendant confessed to the crimes in a trial held May 30, according to KCNA.

North Korea is known to push detainees to make false confessions.

American held captive nearly 500 days
Statues of Kim Il Sung (left) and Kim Jong Il (right) at Mansudae in Pyongyang. North Koreans gather in front of the statues to lay flowers and bow, showing their respect for the late and current leader. Tourists visiting North Korea are expected to do the same. Statues of Kim Il Sung (left) and Kim Jong Il (right) at Mansudae in Pyongyang. North Koreans gather in front of the statues to lay flowers and bow, showing their respect for the late and current leader. Tourists visiting North Korea are expected to do the same.
Bowing is mandatory
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
Defector lifts curtain on North Korea

South Korean officials condemned the sentence, saying that North Korea was "in serious violation" of international norms, and urged for Kim's release.

"North Korea did not respond at all to our request for the family and the legal counsel to access Kim Jeong-uk," said the Unification Ministry spokesperson. The English spelling of Kim's name varied between KCNA and South Korea's ministry.

Kim's previous appearance

KCNA outlined Kim's alleged crimes: "He committed anti-DPRK religious acts, malignantly hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK overseas and tried to infiltrate into Pyongyang after illegally trespassing on the border for the purpose of setting up underground church and gathering information about the internal affairs of the DPRK while luring its inhabitants into south Korea and spying on the DPRK."

In February, Kim appeared before foreign journalists in Pyongyang and apologized for carrying out "anti-state" activities.

Kim said he had worked as a missionary for several years on the Chinese side of the border with North Korea, running a church that sought North Korean converts.

Missionaries in North Korea

A satellite image of a village in the northern part of North Korean political camp 16 (Kwanliso) taken in September 2011. A satellite image of a village in the northern part of North Korean political camp 16 (Kwanliso) taken in September 2011.
A labor camp village before ...
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
>
>>
North Korea\'s political prisons growing? North Korea's political prisons growing?

Missionaries have sought to evangelize in North Korea, as the totalitarian country forbids independent religious activities. Although North Korea contains a number of state-controlled churches, they are considered for show to international audiences, according to a report by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea.

Religion, especially Christianity, is viewed as a political threat because the state does not condone any belief system other than its official state ideology, according to the report.

The images North Korea doesn't want seen
Warning: Graphic. In these chilling drawings released to the United Nations, former North Korean prisoner Kim Kwang-Il details torture methods he witnessed during his time in captivity. In this position, called "pigeon torture," Kim says he was beaten on the chest until he vomited blood. Warning: Graphic. In these chilling drawings released to the United Nations, former North Korean prisoner Kim Kwang-Il details torture methods he witnessed during his time in captivity. In this position, called "pigeon torture," Kim says he was beaten on the chest until he vomited blood.
North Korean torture methods
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
Revealed: Recollections of North Korean torture methods Revealed: Recollections of North Korean torture methods

Witnesses claim that underground churches function inside North Korea, according to the U.N. report. Also, missionaries and underground churches have secretly set up in China near the border to aid defectors.

North Korea is currently holding Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American, who was arrested in November 2012, after entering the city as a tourist. Bae was sentenced in May 2013, accused of trying to topple the North Korean government and bringing religious activities into the country. Bae has remained in North Korean custody despite efforts by the U.S. and his family.

Bae: Please help me

Earlier this year, John Short, a 75-year-old Australian missionary was detained by North Korean authorities in February. He had "committed a criminal act by secretly spreading his Bible tracts around a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang," after entering the country as a tourist, according to KCNA. After issuing a public apology, Short was released.

'Abundant evidence' of crimes against humanity in North Korea

Opinion: World must awaken to North Korea's camps of horror

CNN's Jethro Mullen contribute to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Wed July 2, 2014
As diplomats discuss a string of unsolved kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korea, the families of those abducted anxiously wait and hope.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 11:13 PM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
North Korea says it plans to prosecute two American tourists that it detained earlier this year, accusing them of "perpetrating hostile acts."
updated 7:38 PM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
North Korea proposed that "all hostile military activities" with South Korea be halted, but it attached conditions that Seoul is likely to reject.
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
North Korean state news is reporting the country test-launched "cutting-edge ultra precision tactical guided missiles."
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
James Franco won't be following Dennis Rodman into North Korea anytime soon.
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Don't you hate it when the weatherman gets it wrong? Apparently, so does Kim Jong Un.
updated 7:44 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
New signs show Russia and North Korea are developing a closer relationship.
updated 8:12 PM EDT, Wed May 21, 2014
Photographer Eric Lafforgue visited North Korea and shares his inside look at the most isolated country in the world.
updated 9:25 PM EDT, Mon May 12, 2014
Many North Koreans listen to illegal broadcasts on homemade radios, some are convinced to defect.
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
Jang Jin-Sung, a North Korean defector and former regime insider, speaks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
updated 10:06 AM EDT, Tue May 13, 2014
iReporter Kenny Zhu visited North Korea in April and was able to take video footage and photos with his Google Glass during the trip.
updated 2:42 PM EDT, Tue April 29, 2014
North Korea loves saber-rattling. Here's a look at all the firepower they have stockpiled.
updated 8:03 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
CNN's Elise Labott reports on the new baby pictures of Kim Jong Un released by North Korean state media.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
Experts warn that under Kim Jong Un's rule, Pyongyang has shown an even greater willingness to raise the stakes than before.
updated 9:14 AM EDT, Tue March 18, 2014
China and North Korea criticize a U.N. report that found crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Mon March 17, 2014
Megumi Yokota was only 13 when she was abducted by a North Korean agent in the 1970s. What happened after that?
updated 12:30 AM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
Report: North Korea uses multiple techniques to defy sanctions, and shows no signs of abandoning its nuclear missile programs.
ADVERTISEMENT