John Short, a 75-year-old Australian missionary and North Korean prisoner, is now a free man after a little under two weeks of captivity. "The relevant organ decided to expel him from the territory of the DPRK, thanks to the tolerance of the law of the DPRK and in full consideration of his age," the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported about Short's release. And CNN reports that Short's wife has received word from Australian authorities that Short arrived in Beijing. The same can't be said for American citizen Kenneth Bae, also a missionary, who is still being held in the secretive country.
North Korea detained Short in February for allegedly doing missionary work in the country. Missionary work doesn't go over well in North Korea, which likes to have full authority over its citizens and the information they possess. Short's detainment doesn't sound too different from that of Kenneth Bae, who was detained in 2012 for allegedly trying to undermine the North Korean government with religious activities.
The parallels and similarities between Short and Bae are the reason there's so much attention on Short's release — perhaps his release could tell us more or shine a light on Bae's imprisonment. Theoretically, if both Bae and Short were detained for doing missionary work, you'd expect the punishment to be similar.
But that isn't the case. The first reports of Short's detainment came around February 19, meaning he was detained for around two weeks. North Korea first announced their capture of Bae on December 21, 2012.
The U.S. has repeatedly sought Bae's release, and North Korea hasn't budged. Bae is still reportedly in a labor camp.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.