Seoul confirms detainees in North Korea are South Korean

One of the detainees, a Christian minister, dispatched noodle makers and sewing machines into North Korea, said a Protestant organization in Seoul.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  March 31, 2015 at 1:05 AM
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SEOUL, March 31 (UPI) -- South Korea has confirmed two men being held by North Korea on charges of espionage are South Korean nationals, and one of the two men is a South Korean pastor.

A Christian association in Seoul said Kim Guk-gi is a minister affiliated with the group, Voice of America reported Monday.

The General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in South Korea said Kim was performing missionary duties in the service of North Korean refugees in the Chinese border city of Dandong.

Kim would dispatch noodle, tofu makers, and sewing machines into North Korea. Kim's contact at the South Korean organization said he had not spoken to Kim since 2013.

North Korea's state-controlled media said Thursday its government has apprehended two South Korean nationals and have charged them of espionage and anti-North Korea conspiracy.

Television footage showed the accused presented before a North Korean press conference at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang.

The Wall Street Journal reported North Korea described the pastor, Kim Guk-gi, as 60 years old and an active recruiter of North Korean and Chinese residents inside North Korea. North Korea said Kim has worked with ten North Korea-based individuals to circulate fake bills and disseminate literature censuring the Kim Jong Un regime.

Detainees in the past said North Korea forces captives like Kim to confess to crimes they did not commit. Choe Chun-gil, the second South Korean citizen under North Korea arrest, was said to have entered North Korea illegally to gather intelligence on North Korea's defense and to find soil samples near the Yongbyon nuclear test site.

South Korea's intelligence agency said North Korea's claims are "entirely false," and Seoul has urged Pyongyang to release the detainees immediately.

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