PYONGYANG — North Korea said on Monday it will deport an Australian missionary detained for spreading Christianity in the country, saying he apologized for his anti-state religious acts and requested forgiveness.
Authorities in North Korea have been investigating John Short since his arrest for secretly spreading Bible tracts near a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang on Feb. 16, the birthday of late leader Kim Jong Il, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.
Short, 75, admitted he committed a crime that hurt the Korean people's trust in their leaders and apologized for his behavior, the report said.
“I now realize the seriousness of my insult to the Korean people on February 16th because I made the Korean people angry and for this I truly apologize,” Short was quoted as saying in a written apology, according to a separate KCNA report. “I am willing to bow down on my knees to request this tolerance of (North Korea) and the Korean people.”
North Korea's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but in practice only sanctioned services are tolerated by the government. Defectors from the country have said that the distribution of Bibles and secret prayer services can mean banishment to a labor camp or execution.
North Korea typically frees foreign detainees once they've admitted their crimes but many say after their releases that their confessions were given involuntarily and under duress.
Short has been arrested multiple times while evangelizing in China, according to a biography on a Christian website, Gospel Attract.
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