North Korea sentences Christian missionary to life of hard labour
We must rejoice that Christian Dr Meriam Yehya Ibrahim is to freed by her Muslim captors in Sudan. If these reports be true (and we must, understandably, proceed with caution), her liberation doubtless comes in the wake of intense political pressure and international condemnation of Sudan's barbarous notions of sharia justice.
North Korea has just sentenced South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jeong-Wook (pictured above) to hard labour for life, having found him guilty of setting up an underground church and of espionage. Trumped up allegations of spying invariably accompany charges of illegal proselytism in oppressive regimes: it is the surest way of securing a conviction for 'crimes against the state' - subversion, sedition, treason and fomenting discord or revolution. In North Korea, even the distribution of Bibles or the holding of secret prayer services can be punished with labour camps or execution.
Prosecutors had sought a death sentence for Kim Jeong-Wook (named in North Korea as Kim Jong Uk), but it appears that his admission of guilt and a sincere expression of remorse were sufficient to commute this to life imprisonment with hard labour.
“The accused admitted to all his crimes,” announced North Korea's news agency KCNA. “He committed anti-DPRK religious acts, malignantly hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK (North Korea) 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.”
In fact, Kim Jeong-Wook had been doing what Christian missionaries tend to - comforting the oppressed, providing shelter to the homeless and offering food to starving refugees. He had been doing this for the past seven years, because Jesus commanded him to go.
Like Sudan, religious freedom is enshrined in the North Korean constitution, but that freedom extends only to state-authorised religion, which is, of course, no freedom at all.
The story has been reported by Al-Jazeera and Reuters, and (to their credit) the Independent and Guardian. As the Indy states, "no details of the trial can be independently confirmed". Nor will they be.
Neither the Prime Minister nor Hillary Clinton have yet joined with South Korea in demanding Kim Jeong-Wook's immediate release. And no celebrities have yet condemned North Korea's barbaric sentence, or incited their millions of Twitter followers to lobby their governments or harass the media on Kim Jeong-Wook's behalf.
But then, he is male, of rather geeky appearance, and manifestly not pregnant.