North Korea Sentences an American to 10 Years in Prison

Kim Dong-chul of Fairfax, Virginia, was arrested last October.

Kim Kwang Hyon / AP

North Korea sentenced a Seoul-born U.S. citizen to 10 years of hard labor for alleged subversion and espionage activities, Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, reported Friday.

Xinhua, one of the few foreign news organizations with a bureau in Pyongyang, reported that Kim Dong-chul of Fairfax, Virginia, “was charged with plotting to subvert the DPRK system, slandering the supreme leadership of the country and gathering state and military secrets.” It said Kim was born in Seoul in 1953 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1972, and later became a naturalized citizen.

Here’s more:

Running a trade company in Rason, a special economic zone in the DPRK, Kim started espionage in 2013 after coming into contact with several South Koreans who tasked him with collecting top party, state and military secrets of the DPRK, including its nuclear facilities, nuclear tests and photographs of warships at repairing factories, according to the prosecutor. ...

He was also accused of illegally buying a DPRK-made mobile phone in the capital city of Pyongyang via his local employee and providing the phone to South Korea.

Kim received donations from a Canadian church, gave them to kindergartens in Rason and took pictures of the local children accepting the donations, according to the prosecution.

Kim was detained last October, but his fate became public only in January when he was presented to CNN reporters as a spy. CNN added that he had lived in Yanji, China, which is on the border with North Korea. Kim is the latest U.S. citizen to be convicted in North Korea. Last month, the country’s Supreme Court convicted Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old student at the University of Virginia, of subversion and sentenced him to 15 years of prison and hard labor. He is alleged to have stolen a propaganda sign from his hotel.