A U.S. citizen is allegedly being detained in North Korea on charges of spying, according to an exclusive interview with CNN on Monday. Officials in Pyongyang reportedly gave CNN exclusive access to the man North Korea claims is a naturalized U.S. citizen arrested on espionage charges.
Kim Dong Chul, 62, born in South Korea and said to be from Fairfax, Virginia, would be the only American citizen in North Korean prison if the reports turn out to be true. The others, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, were quietly released by North Korea in November, 2014, a fact not revealed until the story broke. It is not clear at this time whether the government of the United States was aware of the detainee, and the story was not previously reported by North Korean state media.
Kim was arrested in October, 2015, for conducting espionage and stealing state secrets on behalf of “South Korean conservative elements.”
Shockingly, according to the Jerusalem Post, he admitted his role in the alleged spying, possibly under duress, though that remains uncertain. He also possessed a U.S. passport, which was shown to the CNN correspondents.
“I was tasked with taking photos of military secrets and scandalous scenes,” Kim said during the interview, adding, “I’m asking the U.S. or South Korean government to rescue me.”
The interview with him was conducted in a hotel in the North Korean capital. Kim insisted that the interview be conducted in Korean through an official translator, and the translation was later independently corroborated. Kim claimed he moved to Yanji, a trading city along the Chinese-North Korean border, in 2001 and commuted to the Rason Special Economic Zone for his job as the head of a company involved in foreign trade and hotel services. Rason is where he was arrested in October for espionage while meeting a contact to obtain a USB drive and camera to use for spying activities. The contact, a 35-year-old former North Korean soldier, was also arrested.
South Korean elements “injected me with a hatred towards North Korea,” Kim said to CNN. “They asked me to help destroy the (North Korean) system and spread propaganda against the government.”
Kim alleged North Korean authorities had been monitoring his activities since 2009, two years after he started his business. He became a spy in April, 2013, gathering materials and smuggling them into China and South Korea. Though Kim admitted to spying for South Korea, he unequivocally stated he had never worked for the United States. Kim also said he only made around $5,300 (35,000 yuan) spying on North Korea for almost two years.
“It wasn’t about the money,” he told CNN.
Washington has yet to make a comment on all of Kim’s claims, despite the fact that these revelations come at a time of increased tensions on the Korean peninsula, as reported by Inquisitr.
In an eerily similar story reported at almost the same time, CNN also broadcast an interview with Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, who has been detained since February of last year and is currently serving a life sentence in a North Korean prison. His alleged crime was trying to use religion to overthrow the government of North Korea, though specific charges are lacking. According to Newsweek, Lim claims he spends eight hours a day digging holes.
“The South Korean-born Canadian was the head pastor at one of Canada’s biggest churches, the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ontario,” Newsweek stated. “He had visited North Korea more than 100 times in the past two decades to set up an orphanage and orphan home.”
Lim spoke of the conditions of his imprisonment.
“I wasn’t originally a laborer, so the labor was hard at first,” Lim said in Korean during the Newsweek interview. “But now I’ve gotten used to it.”
When asked if his crime was criticism of the North Korean regime, he answered, “Yes, I think so,” adding, “I admit I’ve violated this government’s authority, system and order.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Kim Dong Chul supports American reconciliation with North Korea in light of their purported successful hydrogen bomb test on January 6.
“Seeing that this H-bomb test has succeeded, now is the time to abandon hostile policies and work to help North Korea,” he said to CNN. “The U.S. needs to find a way to reconcile with North Korea. I think the main way to do that is with a peace treaty.”
Though the U.S. State Department has said it cannot confirm that Kim is a U.S. citizen, and Washington has been silent so far about these alleged revelations, CBS reported that an American B-52 bomber flew low over South Korea on Sunday. The fly-over of a plane capable of delivering nuclear weapons will doubtlessly be interpreted by the North Koreans as a Cold War-style show of force following their nuclear test. The Huffington Post also reported that U.S. troops stationed in South Korea were put on their highest alert.
[Photo by Viktoria Gaman/Shutterstock]