Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
North Korean soldiers tour the park surrounding Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the mausoleum where the bodies of the late leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie embalmed, in Pyongyang on Thursday, April 25, 2013. North Korea on Thursday marked the 81st anniversary of the founding of its military, which began as an anti-Japanese militia and now has an estimated 1.2-million troops. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
North Korea charges U.S. man in plot to overthrow regime
First Published Apr 27 2013 02:39 pm • Last Updated Apr 27 2013 02:45 pm

Pyongyang, North Korea • North Korea announced Saturday that an American detained for nearly six months is being tried in the Supreme Court on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, a crime that could draw the death penalty if he is convicted.

The case involving Kenneth Bae, who has been in North Korean custody since early November, further complicates already fraught relations between Pyongyang and Washington following weeks of heightened rhetoric and tensions.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

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 custody of two American journalists, whose eventual release after being sentenced to 12 years of hard labor paved the way for diplomacy following months of tensions.

Bae was arrested in early November in Rason, a special economic zone in North Korea’s far northeastern region bordering China and Russia, according to official state media. In North Korean dispatches, Bae, a Korean American, is called Pae Jun Ho, the North Korean spelling of his Korean name.

The exact nature of his alleged crimes has not been revealed, but North Korea accuses Bae, described as a tour operator, of seeking to overthrow North Korea’s leadership.

"In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK with hostility toward it," the state-run Korean Central News Agency said Saturday. "His crimes were proved by evidence. He will soon be taken to the Supreme Court of the DPRK to face judgment."

DPRK is the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. No timing for the verdict issued at the austere Supreme Court in Pyongyang was given.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. government is "aware of reports that a U.S. citizen will face trial in North Korea" and 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 described Bae as a devout Christian from Washington state but based in the Chinese border city of Dalian who traveled frequently to North Korea to feed the country’s orphans.


story continues below
story continues below

At least three other Americans detained in recent years also have been devout Christians. While North Korea’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, in practice only sanctioned services are tolerated by the regime.

Under North Korea’s criminal code, crimes against the state can draw life imprisonment or the death sentence.

In 2009, American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were sentenced to hard labor for trespassing and unspecified hostile acts after being arrested near the border with China and held for four months.

They were freed later that year to former President Bill Clinton, who flew to Pyongyang to negotiate their release in a visit that then-leader Kim Jong Il treated as a diplomatic coup.

Including Ling and Lee, Bae is at least the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The others eventually were deported or released.

"For North Korea, Bae is a bargaining chip in dealing with the U.S.," said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean Studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea. "The North will use him in a way that helps bring the U.S. to talks when the mood slowly turns toward dialogue."

As in 2009, Pyongyang is locked in a standoff with the Obama administration over North Korea’s drive to build nuclear weapons.

Washington has led the campaign to punish Pyongyang for launching a long-range rocket in December and carrying out a nuclear test, its third, in February.

North Korea claims the need to build atomic weapons to defend itself against the United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea and over the past two months has been holding joint military drills with South Korea that have included nuclear-capable stealth bombers and fighter jets.

Diplomats from China, South Korea, the U.S., Japan and Russia have been conferring in recent weeks to try to bring down the rhetoric and find a way to rein in Pyongyang before a miscalculation in the region sparks real warfare.

South Korean defense officials said earlier in the month that North Korea had moved a medium-range missile designed to strike U.S. territory to its east coast.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.