North Korean authorities have arrested and detained an Australian Christian missionary, his family said today. John Short, 75, was questioned and arrested at his Pyongyang hotel on Sunday during his second trip to the isolated nation.
Short's detention comes two days after the release of a report that painted the country's leader, Kim Jong-un, as a modern-day Hitler. The United Nations found the country is committing widespread crimes against humanity against the country's citizens, including forced abortions, torture, and an almost non-existent right to freedom of expression, opinion or religion.
Karen Short, John Short's wife, told Reuters from Hong Kong that her husband "won't be intimidated by the communists." Karen Short learned of her husband's detention after speaking with a friend he was traveling with who was able to return to China.
"He was carrying Korean literature on his person and that could be the reason, but again I don't know," Karen Short told The Associated Press.
Kenneth Bae, an American, has been held in North Korea for over a year and was sentenced to 15 years hard labor after being accused of plotting to overthrow the government, though there has long been speculation that it was his own missionary work that got him trouble.
John Short, originally from Barmera in southern Australia, was visiting North Korea for the second time, according to Karen Short. She said her husband "knew what he was going into" by visiting the country and openly practiced his Christianity by reading a Bible in front of government guides, according to Reuters.
Following the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, John Short began visiting China to evangelize, but was arrested multiple times and banned from the country in 1996. He was later allowed back in, but was arrested again for speaking out about brutality against Chinese Christians.
"It's not an open country and it doesn't welcome Christians — yes, we realize that," Karen Short told The Associated Press. "But that doesn't mean we stand by and don't do anything because we care for the situation and we pray about it but sometimes you have to do more than talk."
North Korean officials have been unsurprisingly silent, providing no comment and refusing to take calls from the tour company Short was traveling with. Australia is represented in North Korea by the Swedish Embassy, as they, like most nations, don't have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. The Swedes are asking to confirm John Short's well-being, and help in getting more information about him.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.