Insights into North Korean treatment of Australian missionary John Short

After his release from North Korea, 75-year-old Australian missionary John Short reported that he was interrogated for four hours a day and kept under 24-hour guard during his 13 days in North Korean captivity.

“There were two-hour sessions each morning, which were repeated again in the afternoons,” he said.

He said he “openly and honestly” admitted his crime as worded in the indictment: that he distributed Bible tracts with the purpose of making North Koreans become Christians.

“I strongly protested that I was not a spy, nor working with any South Korean organizations nor was I hostile to the DPRK,” he wrote, referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Short said in a statement to Australian Associated Press on Wednesday that recounting Biblical scriptures helped him endure the “long and grueling investigation.”

He said he was told that he faced 15 years in prison for distributing religious pamphlets at a Buddhist temple and on a crowded train.

“I confessed that I had knowingly broken the law in what I believed is my God-directed duty and as I do in every place and country I visit,” Short said.

Short, an enthusiastic walker, said his confinement in a room in Pyongyang under constant guard was stressful. “This I found to be most painful physically as an active senior person,” he said. “I missed my freedom to walk very much.”

North Korea deports Australian missionary

North Korea on Monday deported an Australian missionary detained for spreading Christianity in the country, saying he apologized for his anti-state religious acts and requested forgiveness.

Authorities in North Korea had arrested 75-year-old John Short for secretly distributing Bible tracts near a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang on February 16.

KCNA said North Korea decided to expel him in part out of consideration for his age.

North Korea’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but in practice only sanctioned services are tolerated by the government. Defectors from the country have said that the distribution of Bibles and secret prayer services can mean banishment to a labor camp or execution.

North Korea typically frees foreign detainees after they’ve admitted their crimes, but many say after their releases that their confessions were given involuntarily and under duress.

[AP]

Australian missionary taken into custody in North Korea

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.

[CNN]