North Korea sentences Korean American to 10 years hard labor
North Korea’s Supreme Court on Friday sentenced a Korean American man to 10 years of hard labor for subversion, North Korean media reported, in the latest conviction of a foreigner for crimes against the isolated state.
Kim Dong Chul, 62, was arrested in North Korea in October and had admitted to committing “unpardonable espionage” including stealing military secrets, the North’s official KCNA news agency reported earlier.
“The accused confessed to all crimes he had committed … and gathered and offered information on its party, state and military affairs to the south Korean puppet regime, which are tantamount to state subversive plots and espionage,” it said.
State prosecutors sought a 15-year sentence. His defense attorney requested leniency considering his old age, KCNA said.
Kim was shown in photographs handcuffed and wearing a tie and blue jacket. He looked distressed and was flanked by uniformed guards.
North Korea, which has been criticized over its human rights record for years, has used detained Americans in the past to extract high-profile visits from the United States, with which it has no formal diplomatic relations.
It has previously handed down lengthy hard labor sentences to foreigners, though eventually freeing them before they served their full terms.
Six foreigners, including Kim and three South Koreans, are known to be detained in the North.
Kim, who has said he is a naturalized American citizen, had confessed to committing espionage under the direction of the U.S. and South Korean governments and apologized for his crimes, according to the North’s KCNA news agency in March.
He told foreign media in March that he was born in 1953 in Seoul and moved to the United States when he was 19. He said he set up a business in the North Korean special economic zone of Rason in 2008.
China’s Xinhua news agency on Friday said his business was a trading company called Dongmyong.
Kim said his two daughters lived in New York and he had siblings in South Korea, KCNA said in March.
Some foreigners held by North Korea have said after their release that their sometimes-elaborate confessions were made under pressure while in captivity.
The North is holding an American, Otto Warmbier, who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March for trying to steal a propaganda banner. It is also holding a Korean-Canadian Christian pastor, who is serving a life sentence for subversion.
North Korea has tightened security ahead of its first ruling party congress in 36 years, which will begin on May 6. It has also intensified its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles since its fourth nuclear test in January.
(Editing by Robert Birsel)