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North Korea agents threatened Christian pastor with phone call

Activists in South Korea said Pastor Han Chungryeol was contacted by a defector prior to his disappearance.

By
Elizabeth Shim
Chinese public service notices regarding North Korea are posted next to a military outpost on the Yalu River across from North Korea in Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. The border is crossed by North Korean defectors making their way to China, but Pyongyang is sending agents to crack down on individuals assisting the refugees, according to South Korea activists. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Chinese public service notices regarding North Korea are posted next to a military outpost on the Yalu River across from North Korea in Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. The border is crossed by North Korean defectors making their way to China, but Pyongyang is sending agents to crack down on individuals assisting the refugees, according to South Korea activists. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, May 13 (UPI) -- A Christian pastor in China who was possibly killed by North Korean agents was last seen after receiving a phone call from a North Korean defector, activists in the South said.

Pastor Han Chungryeol, who disappeared April 30, was the founder of Jangbaek Church in the Chinese province of Jilin. As part of his church mission, he frequently assisted North Korean defectors in China.

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But his activities could have drawn the attention of North Korean authorities.

The defector who allegedly called Han on the day of his disappearance had been apprehended by three of Pyongyang's agents who had crossed into China, the activists said.

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There is evidence from Chinese investigators, they said, that Han's phone records indicate the North Korean, a woman in her late 20s with the surname Kim, had spoken to him prior to his "murder," Yonhap reported.

"Surveillance footage captured at the site of the incident showed Kim and three people, who appeared to be North Korean agents," said Choe Seong-yong, the head of the activist group representing abducted families.

Changbai County, where Han's church is located, directly faces the North Korean border city of Hyesan. The Yalu River demarcates the border.

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The activists said that Kim was likely a trusted confidante of Han's, because he was willing to take the time to meet with her after receiving her phone call.

The activists also said North Korean agents could have threatened to harm Kim during the call, and that Kim was assisting Han with his mission until she was apprehended.

Chinese police have requested the cooperation of North Korean authorities on the investigation and have been able to confirm Kim's residential address in the North.

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Choe said North Korea has a record of slaying Christian ministers in the border region who assist defectors. Agents are responsible for the murder of Pastor Ahn Seungun in 1995 and Kim Dongsik in 2002, the activist said.

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