The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a country in East Asia, located in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering South Korea and China. Its capital, Pyongyang, is the country's largest city by both land area and population. It is a single-party state led by the Korean Workers' Party (KWP), and governed by Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un since 2012. It has a population of 24,052,231 (UN-assisted DPRK census 2008) made up of Koreans and a smaller Chinese minority. Japan 'opened' Korea in 1876 and annexed it in 1910. The Republic of Korea (ROK) was founded with US support in the south in August 1948 and the Soviet-backed Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north in September that year.
North Korea may have detained ‘elderly US citizen’
North Korea may have detained an elderly US man last month who entered the country on a tourist visa, Kyodo News Service said on Wednesday, citing an unnamed diplomatic source.
Kyodo, in a report from Beijing, said the possible detention could become another diplomatic bargaining chip for North Korea, which has held Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary, since November last year. Bae has been sentenced by the Pyongyang regime to 15 years of hard labour.
US embassy officials in Beijing and Seoul said they were aware of the reports, but could not confirm them.
North Korea claims the man, who apparently is not of Korean descent, has broken the law, according to Kyodo. The man entered North Korea for sightseeing last month with a valid visa, Kyodo quoted the diplomatic source as saying.
Nolan Barkhouse, a spokesman for the US embassy in Beijing, said: “We are aware of reports that a US citizen was detained in North Korea, but we have no additional information to share at this time.”
He urged Americans to read a State Department warning that “recommends against all travel by US citizens to North Korea.” That warning says that “US citizens crossing into North Korea, even accidentally, have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention.”
North Korea said on November 7 that it had arrested a South Korean spy, but has not provided any more details. It has not made any statement about the apparent new arrest.
In Seoul, local media said the South Korean man arrested in North Korea as a “spy” was an elderly missionary.
“The South Korean that North Korea claims to be a South Korean spy turned out to be 50-year-old missionary named Kim Jeong-wook,” the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper said on its website, citing Kim’s family in South Korea and unnamed sources in China.
A US embassy official in Seoul, who spoke on condition of anonymity said he believed the two cases were separate.
US missionaries of Korean descent have a long history of getting into trouble in North Korea and have required high profile figures such as former President Bill Clinton to secure their release.
In his visit, Bae brought in what the North said were “propaganda materials” aimed at overthrowing the state. An attempt by US North Korean rights envoy Robert King to secure Bae’s release in August was scuppered by Pyongyang.
Tensions between the United States and North Korea rose sharply earlier this year after Pyongyang threatened to fire missiles at the United States in response to what it said were provocative military manoeuvres staged by Seoul and Washington as a prelude to an attack on the North.
Washington and Pyongyang do not have diplomatic relations and the Swedish Embassy in North Korea, which handles issues dealing with US citizens, declined to comment on the latest arrest reports.