Updated February. 28, 2014 03:18
A South Korean Baptist missionary detained in North Korea held a news conference in Pyongyang on Thursday and appealed to North Korean authorities to show him mercy.
The Associated Press reported that the 50-year-old missionary, Kim Jung-wook, said he was arrested on October 8, 2013, one day after crossing into the North from China. The AP quoted him as saying that he was detained on charges of "anti-state" crimes, adding he was sorry for his act. He was also quoted as saying that he entered the North with bibles and Christian instructional materials and movies. He noted that he met numerous times with South Korean intelligence officials before entering the North and received thousands of dollars.
North Korea claimed in November that it had arrested an unidentified "South Korean spy", who sneaked into the country, but did not disclose his name. Kim is said to have provided food and shelter for North Korean escapees at an underground church in the Chinese border town of Dandong. After Chinese authorities forcefully repatriated North Korean refugees living at the church in the first half of last year, Kim crossed the Amnok River into the North on October 7.
"I was thinking of turning North Korea into a religious country, and destroying its present government and political system," Kim was quoted as saying. "I received money from the intelligence services and followed instructions from them, and arranged North Koreans to act as their spies." While making the statement, he closed his lips and remained silent for a while.
He said he appeared at the news conference to show his family that he was doing well, asking for the North to show mercy and release him.
The South Korean government is paying attention to the North`s intention in bringing Kim before international news media for a rare news conference. Seoul believes that Pyongyang intends to use him as a "negotiation card" to play in future inter-Korean talks that would follow the latest reunions of separated families.
"It seems that the North is attempting to have the upper hand in the negotiations with Kim`s release," a Seoul official said. The National Intelligence Service, the South Korean spy agency, denied its involvement in Kim`s entry into the North.
Meanwhile, Kim`s wife in Seoul said she was "relieved" to see his husband in good condition. "It is outrageous that he was working for the NIS," she claimed, saying he was probably forced to say so by the North. In Dandong, rumor has it that one of Kim`s North Korean contacts lured him into the North for a reunion with the North Koreans he had been taking care of.