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U.S. Citizen Faces Trial In North Korea

North Korea has accused an American tourist of committing crimes against the state and trying to bring down the country's regime, according to the North's official news agency.

The KCNA said Saturday that 44-year-old Kenneth Bae, imprisoned since November, confessed to the crimes and would be facing judgement in a North Korean court. He is identified in the report by his Korean name, Pae Jun Ho.

"In the process of investigation, he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the Democratic People's Republic of Korea with hostility toward it," the report said. "His crimes were proved by evidence."

Details on possible sentencing are unknown, but an act classified by the state as terrorism can lead to the death penalty or life in prison.

In December, South Korean media identified the prisoner as a Korean-American tour guide. He was traveling with five other tourists when he was arrested in the city of Rason after police searched the group's belongings and found a computer hard drive. Rason is a port city near the country's border with China and Russia.

The AP reports that those who know Bae insist he is a Christian missionary who traveled to the North from China to feed orphans.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been growing since the North began a nuclear test in February, alarming the South and its Western allies. The U.N. Security Council quickly imposed new sanctions on the country. The North has since reacted with verbal threats and releasing photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appearing to plan missile attacks on the U.S.

More news out of the Korean peninsula came Friday when South Korea announced that it would withdraw its workers from a factory run jointly with the North. Around 175 employees will leave the complex, Seoul announced, after North Korea failed to respond to an invitation for negotiations. Pyongyang closed the factory almost a month ago and hasn't allowed South Korean workers or supplies to cross the border since. Seoul said it was concerned about workers' access to food and medicine.

The North closed the factory in response to military drills in South Korea, which they see as preparation for war.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lauren Hodges is an associate producer for All Things Considered. She joined the show in 2018 after seven years in the NPR newsroom as a producer and editor. She doesn't mind that you used her pens, she just likes them a certain way and asks that you put them back the way you found them, thanks. Despite years working on interviews with notable politicians, public figures, and celebrities for NPR, Hodges completely lost her cool when she heard RuPaul's voice and was told to sit quietly in a corner during the rest of the interview. She promises to do better next time.
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