N. Korea Jails Third Missionary on Anti-State Crimes
North Korea has arrested Kim Jung Wook, a 50-year-old Baptist missionary from South Korea.
Kim, who admitted to trying to establish an underground church in North Korea, is now the third Christian missionary to be imprisoned by the communist nation.
According to the New York Times, Kim was arrested in November, but the North had denied South Korea's request to identify him until now.
He joins American Kenneth Bae, who was jailed in November 2012, and 75-year-old Australian John Short, who was arrested less than two weeks ago.
On Thursday, the North Korean government paraded Kim before the media in Pyongyang, where he apologized for committing alleged anti-state crimes.
"I was thinking of turning North Korea into a religious country and destroying its present government and political system," he said.
Eric Foley, CEO and founder of the Colorado-based mission Seoul USA, said the North Korean regime intends to use the three imprisoned missionaries as bargaining chips to secure concessions from the West.
"This is the beginning of what I think will be a sustained effort on the part of North Korea to try to achieve a certain kind of aid and a certain kind of understanding with populations around the world that they believe to be sympathetic," Foley warned.
"They want the focus off of North Korea's own anti-Christian policies and on to the actions of these men. That's a misplaced perspective," he said.
Since North Korea's constitution guarantees religious freedom, Christians are often falsely accused of spying, or committing other crimes against the state.
"It should not be possible to claim both -- that there is freedom of religion in North Korea and that these men did something deceitful," Foley said. "What they did is something very basic and that's the sharing of their faith."
It's still unclear the kind of punishment Kim will face. He said he agreed to hold the press conference because he wanted his family to know he was okay.
Meanwhile, Bae, despite being ill, continues to serve a 15-year sentence in a North Korea labor camp. The status of Short is still unknown.
Foley made it clear the string of missionary arrests is not indicative of a new wave of persecution.
"This is not a new war on Christians," he said. "This is simply the West being able to see what North Korean underground Christians have always known, which is that the Christian faith is not welcome in any form in North Korea."
"They have demonstrated once again that there is no back door for the Gospel into North Korea," he continued. "The only way the Gospel can advance is at great personal cost. So let's pray that God finds them faithful at this point in their imprisonment."