SEOUL: North Korea convicted a South Korean man of espionage and sentenced him to hard labour for life, saying he had confessed to attempting to set up an underground church, according to state media Saturday.
Prosecutors had sought a death sentence for the man, identified by the North’s official news agency KCNA as Kim Jong Uk, during Friday’s trial.
However, according to KCNA, Kim confessed his guilt — including state subversion, espionage, anti-state propaganda and agitation, and illegal entry into the country — and “sincerely repented”.
“The accused admitted to all his crimes: he committed anti-DPRK religious acts, malignantly hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK overseas and tried to infiltrate into Pyongyang … for the purpose of setting up underground church and gathering information about the internal affairs of the DPRK while luring its inhabitants into South Korea and spying on the DPRK,” KCNA said in its report on the trial.
Instead of facing execution, he was sentenced to hard labour for life, the report said.
US citizen Kenneth Bae, described by a North Korean court as a militant Christian evangelist, was sentenced last year to 15 year’s hard labour on charges of seeking to topple the government.
Kim’s sentence comes as military tensions between the two Koreas have been elevated for several months.
This week, North Korea warned that recent “provocative” activities by US troops at a truce village on the heavily fortified inter-Korean border could lead to a “catastrophic” military clash.
Earlier this month Seoul said a North Korean warship fired shells near one of its naval corvettes and denounced Pyongyang’s denial as a “blatant lie”.