An American detained in North Korea said he had spied against the country and asked for forgiveness at a media presentation Friday, nine days after an American student Otto Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor for subversion.
Kim Tong Chol told a press conference in Pyongyang that he had collaborated with and spied for South Korean intelligence authorities in a plot to bring down the North’s leadership and tried to spread religious ideas among North Koreans. Describing his acts as “shameful and ineffaceable,” Kim said he feels sorry for his crime and appealed to North Korean authorities to show him mercy by forgiving him.
Kim Tong Chol was born in South Korea and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. In an interview with CNN in January, Kim said he lived in Fairfax, Virginia, before moving in 2011 to Yangji, a city near the Chinese-North Korean border. He said he commuted daily to Rason, a special economic zone in North Korea, where he was president of a trade and hotel services company.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, the country’s main spy agency, said Kim’s case wasn’t related to the organization in any way and offered no further comment.
North Korea is currently holding three South Koreans and a Canadian pastor for what it calls espionage and attempts to establish churches and use religion to destroy the North’s system.