American sentenced to 15 yrs of hard labour in North Korea



Zee Media Bureau

Seoul: In what may reignite the tensions between the US and North Korea, Pyongyang on Thursday announced the sentencing of An American to 15 years of "compulsory labor" for “anti-government crimes”.

Pae Jun Ho, who entered Pyongyang as a tourist, was accused of plotting to overthrow the government and held last year in North Korea.

Pyongyang's official state media said Bae's trial took place Tuesday, but the dispatch provided few new details. Bae was tried in the country's Supreme Court on charges of plotting to overthrow the government. He could've faced the death penalty.

"The Supreme Court sentenced him to 15 years of compulsory labor for this crime," the Korean Central News Agency said.

The exact nature of his alleged crimes has not been revealed.

Bae was arrested in early November in Rason, a special economic zone in North Korea's far northeastern region bordering China and Russia, North Korea said.

The trial mirrors a similar situation in 2009, when the U.S. and North Korea were locked in a standoff over Pyongyang's decision to launch a long-range rocket and conduct an underground nuclear test. At the time, North Korea had detained two American journalists, whose eventual release after being sentenced to 12 years of hard labor paved the way for diplomacy following months of tensions.

In North Korean dispatches, Bae, a Korean American from Washington state, is called Pae Jun Ho, the North Korean spelling of his Korean name.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said last week that officials from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang had visited Bae on Friday. She said she had no other information to share.

Because Washington and Pyongyang do not have diplomatic relations, the Swedish Embassy in North Korea represents the United States in legal proceedings.

Friends and colleagues said Bae was based in the Chinese border city of Dalian and traveled frequently to North Korea to feed the country's orphans.

KCNA on Thursday described Bae as a "tourist" who was arrested while committing "hostile acts" against North Korea.

With Agency Inputs