North Korea to free Australian Christian missionary: KCNA

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 02, 2014 7:13 PM

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said on Monday it would deport an Australian missionary for promoting Christianity, with the state news agency carrying what it described as a confession by the elderly man who was arrested last month.

"John Short committed a criminal act by secretly spreading his Bible tracts around a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang when visiting it on February 16, the birth anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il," North Korea's official KCNA news agency said, referring to the father of current leader Kim Jong Un.

It described February 16 as North Korea's biggest holiday.

Short admitted wrongdoing and apologized, KCNA said.

It said North Korea had decided to deport 75-year-old Short partly in consideration of his age.

Pyongyang has held American missionary Kenneth Bae for more than a year and convicted him of trying to overthrow the state.

While North Korea espouses freedom of religion it is ranked as one of the world's most oppressive regimes in that regard.

A United Nations report issued last month identified a lack of religious freedom in a state whose human rights abuses it likened to those of Nazi Germany.

In a rare media conference last week, a South Korean missionary held in North Korea confessed to spying in the North at the behest of the South Korean intelligence agency and attempting to build an underground church in the country.

(Reporting by Choonsik Yoo, Se Young Lee Ju-min Park; Editing by Paul Tait)