Insights into North Korean treatment of Australian missionary John Short

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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.”

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One thought on “Insights into North Korean treatment of Australian missionary John Short

  1. Some background on John Short: He associated himself with a group of religious believers known collectively as “Gospel Halls Brethren”. Believers are commanded to undertake the “Great Commission” (evangelism) all over the world.

    Speeches by Chinese evangelist and author Dr. Andrew Gih, and British born evangelical missionary in China, Gladys Aylward, were the catalyst that fired John Short’s calling.

    He determined his life was to serve his Lord in China and set sail for the then British colony of Hong Kong in January 1964. Mr Short, fluent in Cantonese, worked predominantly in the Kowloon Peace Clinic, with veteran missionary Frances Wilks, as a dentist assessing the condition of teeth of refugees and if necessary undertaking extractions.

    He also worked at establishing two New Testament Churches in the protected territory that exercised religious freedom.

    It was during a return visit to Australia in 1976 that he met his future wife, Karen, at a Sunday school picnic in country Queensland. They married in January 1978 in Bundaberg and have lived in Hong Kong ever since, raising three boys.

    The couple bought the Christian Book Room publishing house together 16 years ago, around the time the handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China in 1997. The production and distribution of Bibles and Christian religious texts, translated in to several Asian languages, is the cornerstone of the Short family’s crusade to proliferate the “Word of God”. Their Asian ministry has a wide network and has a foothold in several of China’s inland provinces along with bases in Myanmar, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Indonesia.

    Mr Short has been at the forefront of the expansion and has made many trips to help establish the bases. He has been operating in some of the most politically and religiously sensitive places on the planet and is highly aware of the consequences of rocking the boat. It would be reasonable to suggest Mr Short regards arrest and detainment as an occupational hazard.

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