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Media Contact: Ryan Morgan, Regional Manager for Southeast Asia RM-SEAsia@persecution.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
North Korea Releases Australian Missionary Detained on Kim Jong-il's Birthday
International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Australian missionary John Short, 75, was released from detention in Pyongyang, North Korea early this morning. The missionary, based in Hong Kong, had been arrested by authorities in North Korea for distributing Gospel tracts while on a tour of the capital city on February 16th, the same day as now deceased North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's birthday. Practicing Christianity, including writing or distributing Christian literature, is illegal in North Korea, a nation widely regarded as the world's worst persecutor of Christians.
On Monday morning, the government-run KCNA news agency in North Korea reported that John would be released after signing a full confession admitting to his "crimes." In a copy of the confession obtained by ICC, John writes, "I violated the independent right and offended the law of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)." He goes on to write, "I wanted more Korean people to be Christians, therefore I secretly spread Bible tracts written by me."
Foreigners detained by North Korean authorities are often released after writing confessions and apologizing for their actions. After their release and deportation from the country, many reveal that the confessions were forced and written under duress. On Thursday, South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jeong-wook 'confessed' in front of state-run media to spying for South Korea, a charge which the South Korean government adamantly denies. Kim has been detained since October of last year.
John Short's written confession adds, "I deeply apologize for what I have done by spreading my Bible tracts on February 16th, the birthday of his excellency Kim Jong-il. The people of the DPRK regard February 16th as the greatest national holiday." North Korean citizens are forced to regularly celebrate holidays commemorating the ruling Kim family, including the birthdays of the deceased "great leader" Kim Il-sung, and the "dear leader" Kim Jong-il.
North Korea also continues to imprison Kenneth Bae, an American missionary, in a special labor camp near Pyongyang. Kenneth, from Washington State, was arrested in November of 2012 and sentenced in May of 2013 to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly attempting to "overthrow the government of the DPRK." Last week, Terri Chung, Kenneth's sister, told ICC that the family continues to hope and pray for his quick release. Kenneth is currently the longest held American citizen in North Korea since the end of the Korean war in 1953.
Ryan Morgan, International Christian Concern's Regional Manager for East Asia, said, "We were incredibly relieved to hear about the release of John Short this morning from North Korea. Everyone at ICC has spent the last two weeks eagerly awaiting news while doing everything possible to support John and his wife, Karen, during this time. We believe no one should have to face detention, arrest, or imprisonment simply for sharing their religious beliefs. While we are overjoyed with John's release, we cannot forget that at least two other foreign missionaries, American Kenneth Bae and South Korean Kim Jeong-wook, remain imprisoned in the North. We can also not forget the millions of North Koreans who, for more than half a century, have faced unimaginable persecution because of their religious beliefs and continue to do so today."
For interviews, contact Ryan Morgan, Regional Manager for Southeast Asia: RM-SEAsia@persecution.org
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