Man in 60s confesses to spying on North Korea having been arrested late last year
By Alex Jensen
SEOUL – An American detainee in North Korea has become the latest foreigner to publicly confess to undermining the reclusive state’s authoritarian regime, telling a press conference in Pyongyang Friday that he had been spying for Seoul until his arrest last year.
The North’s official KCNA news agency reported that Kim Dong-chul, 62, was caught in October having been handed state nuclear and military secrets in a North Korean border city.
Less than 10 days ago, another U.S. citizen — student Otto Warmbier — was ordered by Pyongyang’s Supreme Court to serve 15 years of hard labor for subversion.
The main charge against Warmbier appeared to be trying to steal a propaganda banner from a hotel.
Like Kim, Warmbier had earlier confessed to “severe crimes” and requested mercy at a public briefing.
They are among a series of visitors to land in trouble after seemingly ignoring Washington’s advice not to travel to North Korea, which is suspected of forcing confessions from detainees and using them as diplomatic leverage.
There is some cause for optimism following the release of three Americans from the North in 2014.
The current political climate, however, may be unfavorable with Pyongyang recently issuing multiple statements threatening to attack both South Korea and the U.S. in response to being hit by strengthened sanctions earlier this month.
Tensions have been high on the peninsula since North Korea defied the United Nations with its fourth ever nuclear test in January and subsequent long-range rocket launch.
Pyongyang considers Seoul and Washington enemies — a legacy of the unresolved 1950-53 Korean War, as nearly 30,000 American troops remain stationed in South Korea.
The allies have refused to negotiate with a nuclear-armed North Korea, while Pyongyang sees atomic weapon development as a sovereign right.