North Korea: We've Got a US Prisoner

Man IDed as Kim Dong Chul tells CNN he spied on North for the South
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2016 8:22 AM CST
North Korea: We've Got a US Prisoner
In this July 22, 2013, photo, North Korean soldiers guard the truce village of Panmunjom at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which separates the two Koreas, in North Korea.   (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

"I'm asking the US or South Korean government to rescue me," was the plea of the man "frogmarched" into a Pyongyang hotel room in front of a CNN reporter. That man said his name is Kim Dong Chul and that he's a naturalized American citizen who used to reside in Virginia—and who North Korea says is now its prisoner, being held on spy charges, CNN reports. The interview with Kim, who CNN says is 62, was conducted in Korean and translated; that translation was deemed accurate by CNN, and North Korea also provided what it said was Kim's passport. Kim also insisted during the interview that nothing he said was coerced, though CNN notes his statements sound strikingly similar to those of other Westerners previously held by North Korea who spoke under duress. The New York Times notes that North Korea often parades prisoners in front of non-state media in what analysts say is an attempt to "increase Pyongyang's leverage over Washington."

By his own account, Kim, who CNN notes seemed to be in good health, says he moved to the border town of Yanji, China, in 2001 and worked for a company dealing with international trade and hotel services. But he said he started working as a spy for South Korea in 2013, pointing the finger at South Koreans who "injected me with a hatred towards North Korea" and "asked me to help destroy the [North Korean] system and spread propaganda against the government." He was arrested in October after amassing a grand total of $5,300 for his espionage activities, he says, adding, "It wasn't about the money." The US State Department wouldn't confirm Kim's American status, telling CNN that "speaking publicly about specific purported cases of detained Americans can complicate our tireless efforts to secure their freedom." South Korea's main spy agency tells the Times it "has no relationship whatsoever" with Kim. (Tensions continue to rise between North and South.)

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