Australian missionary detained in North Korea

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Australian missionary detained in North Korea

An Australian man has been arrested while doing missionary work in North Korea, his wife said Wednesday.

The wife of 75-year-old John Short told Reuters that her husband was arrested in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, on Sunday and had been open about his religious work on his second trip to the isolated state.

“He won’t be intimidated by the Communists,” Karen Short said by telephone from Hong Kong.

North Korea has held American missionary Kenneth Bae for more than a year and convicted him of trying to overthrow the state.

A North Korean court sentenced Bae to 15 years of hard labor, and efforts by Washington to secure his release have been thwarted.

“I’m not upset, we’re Christian missionaries and we have tremendous support for what we do,” Short’s wife said of her husband’s arrest.

While North Korea espouses freedom of religion, it is ranked as one of the world’s most oppressive regimes in terms of religious freedom.

Short was making his second trip to North Korea, according to a statement by his family, and was in possession of religious materials that had been translated into Korean.

Australia, which does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, is using its embassy in Seoul, and the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, to handle the case.

“We are in close contact with Swedish officials in Pyongyang to seek their assistance in confirming the well-being of Mr. Short and to obtain more information,” said an Australian Embassy spokesman in Seoul.

The official added that its capacity to deliver consular services in Pyongyang was “extremely limited.”

Beijing Tourism Group, a Chinese firm identified by Short’s wife as the agency running the tour on which her husband went to Pyongyang, was noncommittal when contacted by Reuters, and referred inquiries to the Chinese government.

Short’s wife said that on her husband’s first trip to North Korea, he had been transparent about his faith and had openly read his Bible in front of government guides.

“He’s courageous, this is my husband’s character,” she said. “I hope things get better - he’s in God’s hands, we both totally believe that.”

Reuters

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