SEOUL- According to North’s official KCNA news agency, Kim Dong Chul, 62, who was arrested in North Korea in October where he admitted to be guilty of committing “unpardonable espionage” including stealing military secrets, got sentenced to 10 years hard labor on Friday for subversion.
The sentence issued by North Korea’s Supreme Court came as the latest conviction of a foreigner for crimes against the isolated state where only weeks earlier North Korea sentenced American Otto Warmbier to 15 years hard labor in March for trying to steal a propaganda banner.
Kim was shown in photographs handcuffed and wearing a tie and blue jacket where he looked distressed and was flanked by guards. North Korea, criticized over its human rights record for years, has used detained Americans in the past to extract high-profile visits from the United States, with which it has no formal diplomatic relations.
No formal comment was issued by the U.S. State Department citing privacy issues, but a State Department official, who did not want to be identified, said the United States was aware of media reports of the sentencing.
In the past, North Korea has handed down lengthy hard labor sentences to foreigners, though later freeing them before they served their full terms. Six foreigners, including Kim and three South Koreans, are known to be detained in the North.
According to the North’s KCNA news agency in March, Kim, who has said he is a naturalized American citizen, had confessed to committing espionage under the direction of the U.S. and South Korean governments and apologized for his crimes.
He told foreign media then that he was born in 1953 in Seoul and moved to the United States when he was 19. He said he set up a business in the North Korean special economic zone of Rason in 2008. Kim said his two daughters lived in New York and he had siblings in South Korea, KCNA said in March.