SEOUL, April 10 (UPI) -- North Korea deported a Korean American aid worker and philanthropist on charges of espionage – after receiving $2 million in annual aid from her organization for 25 years.
Pyongyang's state-controlled media outlet KCNA had blasted Sandra Suh on Wednesday, for partaking in a plot against the North Korean government, and for disseminating "propaganda" about the reclusive state, reported Yonhap.
Suh left North Korea and arrived in Beijing on Thursday, en route to the United States after the announcement.
Choe Jae-yeong, a pastor and an acquaintance of Suh, said Suh was a "doyenne of North Korea aid organizations in the Los Angeles area," according to Radio Free Asia.
Choe said even in the darkest days of the Great Famine that killed more than two million North Koreans in the 1990s, Suh was at the forefront of providing aid to the needy. At the time, she operated a noodle factory in North Korea's Hwanghae province and in Pyongyang, and supplied medical aid.
Suh even arranged a trip to North Korea for U.S.-based pastors in order to raise funds and awareness of the need for a hospital for the disabled in North Korea. At one point, she collected used carpets for North Korean orphanages.
The Korean American aid worker had relatives in North Korea and her philanthropic work enabled her to cultivate a friendship with the North Korean authorities.
North Korea's KCNA claimed Suh had confessed to her crimes and "earnestly begged for pardon."
The Guardian reported Suh is registered as a founder of Wheat Mission Ministries, established in 1989 to provide food aid and medical technology to North Korea.