A 75-year-old Australian missionary who traveled to North Korea as part of a tour group has been detained there, his wife said. John Short had with him some Gospel tracts in Korean “which seem to be at the core of the detention,” his wife said in a statement Wednesday.
“It is alleged he is being asked questions such as, ‘Who sent you?’, ‘To what organization do you belong?’, ‘Who translated this material into Korean?'” his wife, Karen Short, said.
Short, who lives in Hong Kong, went to Pyongyang on Saturday. The next night, police questioned him at his hotel and took him into custody, according to the statement.
Short has been arrested multiple times while doing evangelical work in China “for speaking out about brutality against Chinese Christians,” according to a biography on a religious website named Gospel Attract. In the 1990s, he became “persona non grata” with Chinese authorities for almost two years and was unable to visit mainland China, the biography said.
North Korea “considers the spread of Christianity a particularly serious threat, since it challenges ideologically the official personality cult and provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the realm of the state,” a United Nations panel said in a report released this week.
“People caught practicing Christianity are subject to severe punishments in violation of the right to freedom of religion and the prohibition of religious discrimination,” the report by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea said.