Korean-American man confesses to ‘unpardonable espionage’ in North Korea

A man, who identified himself as Kim Dong Chul, attends a news conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, in Pyongyang March 25, 2016. © KCNA
An American citizen detained by North Korea has confessed to committing acts of espionage on behalf of South Korea, his country of birth. The news comes a week after a US student was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for attempting to steal a banner.

Kim Tong Chol, 60, admitted to committing “unpardonable espionage” at a press conference in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, international media reported Friday. He asked for mercy during his confession, China’s Xinhua and Japan’s Kyodo news agencies reported.

“The extraordinary crime I committed was defaming and insulting the republic’s highest dignity and its system and spreading false propaganda aimed at breaking down its solidarity,” he said.

Kim confessed to being paid by South Korea to steal military and state secrets, North Korean state agency KCNA reported. He claimed to have met with South Korean contacts and provided them with secret information contained on USB memory sticks.

The Christian pastor from Fairfax, Virginia had worked in both China and the US before starting a business in North Korea’s Rason Special Economic Zone in 2008, according to Reuters.

Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1953, and still has two siblings in the country. He came to the United States in 1972, and has two daughters that currently live in New York, he told reporters.

Last week, North Korea’s high court sentenced American college student Otto Warmbier to 15 years of hard labor for attempting to steal a political banner. The 21-year-old from Ohio made a confession similar to Kim’s at a press conference at the end of February.

North Korea has continued to draw the ire of the international community for its continued testing of long-range rockets and nuclear weapons, despite sanctions against such activities.