Australian Missionary Detained in N.Korea

The wife of a Christian missionary from Australia said her husband has been detained in North Korea after being found with religious material while on a tourist visit.

In a statement on Wednesday, Karen Short, who lives in Hong Kong, said North Korean police arrested her husband John on Sunday at his hotel in Pyongyang.

The statement said the 75-year-old was "in possession of some Gospel tracts in the Korean language which seem to be at the core of the detention."

Australian officials have said they are aware of Short's case and are working with Swedish officials in North Korea, since Canberra does not have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.

North Korea has not commented on the case, which is the second instance in recent months of North Korea imprisoning foreign missionaries.

Forty-five year-old Korean-American Kenneth Bae is currently serving a sentence of 15 years of hard labor after being found guilty of trying to overthrow the government.

The communist North Korean leadership views organized religion as a threat to its hold on power.

News of Short's detention comes just days after a United Nations human rights inquiry said North Korea was committing crimes against humanity without "any parallel in the contemporary world."

The report said North Korea has systematically exterminated, tortured and enslaved its people, ordered forced abortions, and persecuted people on political, religious, racial and gender grounds.

North Korean diplomats in Geneva dismissed the report, saying it was an "instrument of a political plot aimed at sabotaging the socialist system."

VOA News / Feb. 20, 2014 08:00 KST