A South Korean newspaper reported March 5 that the North Korean government is set to execute 33 individuals who had contact with a South Korean Baptist missionary arrested last year on charges he was trying to establish churches in the North. According to a source cited by South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper, the North Korean citizens, who allegedly converted to Christianity or were otherwise influenced by South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook, “will be executed in a secret cell at the State Security Department on charges of attempting to overthrow the regime by receiving money to set up 500 underground churches. ”
In late February the North Korean government displayed Kim, who admitted to attempting to trying to set up underground churches in the North and apologized for committing “anti-state” crimes against North Korea. In his February 27 public appearance, the first since his arrest in October, Kim “appealed to North Korean authorities to show him mercy by releasing him, and also claimed he had received assistance from South Korea's intelligence agency,” reported the Associated Press.
“I was thinking of turning North Korea into a religious country, and destroying its present government and political system,” Kim said in an awkward and scripted confession. “I received money from the intelligence services and followed instructions from them, and arranged North Koreans to act as their spies. And I also set up an underground church in China, in Dandong, and got the members to talk and write, for me to collect details about the reality of life in North Korea, and I provided this to the intelligence services.”
South Korea denied any link to Kim, and the AP noted that North Korean authorities have often staged news conferences “where detainees are presented before the media to make statements that they later recant.”
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