By Alex Jensen
SEOUL (AA) – North Korea’s Supreme Court sentenced alleged spy Kim Dong-chul to 10 years of hard labor Friday, as Kim became the latest foreigner to fall foul of Pyongyang’s notorious justice system.
Like fellow American Otto Warmbier — the student who was recently ordered to serve 15 years for trying to steal a hotel’s propaganda banner — Kim issued a public confession before receiving his sentence.
The 62-year-old is known to have been a regular visitor to North Korea before being arrested last October for attempting to take possession of state secrets in a special economic zone close to the North’s border with China and Russia.
While Kim admitted to working as a spy for South Korea, the North has frequently been accused of forcing confessions from detainees.
Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency claimed that North Korea’s Supreme Court gathered the testimony of witnesses to “prove the crimes of the accused”.
The report also stated that the prosecution had originally sought a 15-year sentence, but the “defense counsel” asked the court to take into consideration Kim’s age.
North Korea did not offer the same leniency in December to Canadian pastor Lim Hyeon-soo, who is also in his early 60s but is set to spend the rest of his life doing hard labor following his capture while performing missionary work in the authoritarian state last year.
There may be some hope for both Lim and Kim, however, as American missionary Kenneth Bae was released early in Nov. 2014 — around two years after being arrested and subsequently ordered to serve 15 years of hard labor.
Washington advises U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to North Korea, which is currently under heavy sanctions for repeated nuclear and missile tests in defiance of United Nations resolutions.