A Korean-American currently detained in North Korea has confessed to espionage charges, a North Korean official told CNN.
The detained man, Kim Dong Chul, told CNN’s Will Ripley in January that he used to live in Fairfax, Virginia.
Kim, a naturalized American, said he moved to Yanji, a city near the Chinese-North Korean border that acts as a trade hub between the two countries, in 2001.
From Yanji, Kim said he commuted daily to Rason, a special economic zone on the North Korean side of the border, where he served as president of a company involved in international trade and hotel services.
According to Kim, he spied on behalf of “South Korean conservative elements,” for which he was arrested in October 2015.
He said he started working as a spy in April 2013, bribing local residents to “gather important materials,” which he smuggled into China or South Korea.
Asked whether he worked for the United States at any time, Kim said categorically that he did not.
Kim’s January claims were made in the presence of North Korean officials, and CNN cannot determine whether they were made under duress.
Kim was arrested while he was meeting a source to obtain a USB stick and camera used to gather military secrets.
The source, a 35-year-old former North Korean soldier, was also arrested. Kim said he did not know the other man’s fate.