North Korea will try U.S. man for plot
PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea announced on Saturday that an American detained for nearly six months is being tried in the Supreme Court on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, a crime that could draw the death penalty if he is convicted.
The case involving Kenneth Bae, who has been in North Korean custody since early November, further complicates fraught relations between Pyongyang and Washington amid weeks of heightened rhetoric and tensions.
The trial mirrors a similar situation in 2009, when the United States and North Korea were locked in a standoff over Pyongyang's decision to launch a long-range rocket and conduct an underground nuclear test. At the time, North Korea had custody of two American journalists, whose eventual release after being sentenced to 12 years of hard labor paved the way for diplomacy after months of tensions.
Bae was arrested in early November in Rason, a special economic zone in North Korea's far northeastern region bordering China and Russia, according to official state media. In North Korean dispatches, Bae, a Korean American, is called Pae Jun Ho, the North Korean spelling of his Korean name.
The exact nature of his alleged crimes has not been revealed, but North Korea accuses Bae, described as a tour operator, of seeking to overthrow North Korea's leadership.
“In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK with hostility toward it,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said Saturday. “His crimes were proved by evidence. He will soon be taken to the Supreme Court of the DPRK to face judgment.”
DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the government is “aware of reports that a U.S. citizen will face trial in North Korea” and that officials from the Swedish Embassy had visited Bae on Friday.
Because Washington and Pyongyang do not have diplomatic relations, the Swedish Embassy in North Korea represents the United States in legal proceedings.
Friends and colleagues described Bae as a devout Christian from Washington state but based in the Chinese border city of Dalian who traveled frequently to North Korea to feed the country's orphans.
At least three other Americans detained in recent years also have been devout Christians. While North Korea's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, in practice only sanctioned services are tolerated by the regime.
Under North Korea's criminal code, crimes against the state can draw life imprisonment or the death sentence.
In 2009, American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were sentenced to hard labor for trespassing and unspecified hostile acts after being arrested near the border with China and held for four months.
They were freed later that year to former President Clinton.
Including Ling and Lee, Bae is at least the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The others eventually were deported or released.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 116 die as jet goes down in storm in Mali
- Rome, Pope greet Sudanese Christian
- Air Algerie flight ‘probably’ crashed in Mali in rough weather
- Poland ordered to pay terror suspects $310K
- Aid groups driven from violent Myanmar region invited back
- Ukraine PM resigns amid coalition’s fall
- Kurd elected president of Iraq
- Afghan ballot recount paused as candidate disagree over criteria to scrap ballots
- German midwife suspected of attempted murders
- Peace Corps volunteers pulled from Kenya
- Acetaminophen no better for back pain than placebo, researchers report