North Korea has sentenced a South Korean-born American citizen to 10 years of hard labor for “subversion and espionage,” CNN reports. Sixty-two-year-old Kim Dong-chul, a former Virginia resident, was arrested in October of 2015 and “confessed” to his crimes in March, 2016. Dong-chul, who was born in South Korea but became a U.S. citizen in 1987, was accused of “perpetrating the state subversive plots and espionage against the DPRK,” the Korean Central News Agency reported.
“Confessions” such as Kim’s are par for the course for North Korean detainees, and after they are released, detainees are told what to say by their North Korean captors, many have revealed.
“The accused confessed to all crimes he had committed to overthrow the social system of the DPRK while viciously slandering the dignity of its supreme leadership and its political system 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 espionages,” the state-run agency said.
— CCTV (@CCTV) April 29, 2016
In a highly-scripted and carefully-monitored display of “justice” in front of reporters in Pyongyang in March, Kim said “he had spied for South Korea’s intelligence agencies, sought to obtain details of the North’s military programs” and tried to spread “religious” ideas — a serious crime in the communist run country. While he described his alleged acts as “unpardonable,” he did appeal for leniency.
State prosecutors demanded 15 years of hard labor, but Kim’s defense team asked the court to commute the penalty because of his old age, and because with aging comes hope that he may “repent of his faults” one day soon.
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In recent years, North Korea has been positioning itself as a powerful political force, primary because of using detained American citizens as “bargaining chips in negotiations with the United States, its avowed enemy.” As the Washington Post notes, detainees are eventually released, especially after high-profile Americans, including former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, traveled to Pyongyang.
Some analysts have speculated that North Korea would try to get an American official to travel to Pyongyang to secure the release of American college student Otto Warmbier and Kim, however, “two diplomats and a former government official with knowledge of the discussions, said that no plans are underway for a high-profile official to travel to Pyongyang.”
North Korea has been criticized over its human rights playbook for years. Newsweek reports that currently six foreigners, including Kim and three South Koreans, are known to be detained. It is also holding a Korean-Canadian Christian pastor, who is serving a life sentence for subversion.
Prior to his arrest, Kim lived in China near the North Korean border for 15 years, and Korea Times notes how he would frequently visit the North Korean special economic zone of Rason. He was arrested as he was “trying to receive a USB drive containing sensitive military information from a source in Rason.”
Kim’s 10 years of hard labor sentence was handed down by the communist country’s Supreme Court following a similar one given to Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner during a tour over the New Year’s holiday. He was convicted and sentenced last month, after a one-hour trial in the Supreme Court, which found that he had committed a crime “pursuant to the U.S. government’s hostile policy” toward North Korea.
The hard labor sentences handed down to each man has left many wondering why does the U.S. media seem to care less about Kim Dong-chul than Otto Warmbier?
Tell us what you think of North Korea’s hard labor laws in the comments below.
[Image courtesy Kim Kwang Hyon/AP]