North Korea said Saturday it will soon try American tour guide Kenneth Bae in Supreme Court for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government. Already detained for almost six months, if Bae is convicted, he could face the death penalty.
According to the state-run news agency, Bae is a tour operator of Korean descent, and he was arrested Nov. 3 as he arrived with a tour group in Rason - a special economic zone in the northeast bordering China and Russia. His indictment comes after months of escalating rhetoric and provocations from Pyongyang.
Identified in North Korean state media by his Korean name, Pae Jun Ho, he is the sixth American detained by North Korea since 2009. Others were eventually deported or released.
Officials have not revealed exactly what crimes Bae is charged with. They only reported that he sought to overthrow the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
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"In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK with hostility toward it," the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Saturday. "His crimes were proved by evidence. He will soon be taken to the Supreme Court of the DPRK to face judgment."
"For North Korea, Bae is a bargaining chip in dealing with the U.S.," said professor of North Korean Studies Koh Yu-hwan of Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea. "The North will use him in a way that helps bring the U.S. to talks when the mood slowly turns toward dialogue."
Bae’s friends and colleagues said he is a devout Christian from the state of Washington, who often travelled to North Korea to feed the country’s orphans. Despite the North Korean constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion, three other Americans detained there were also Christians.
The KCNA did not reveal when Bae’s trial would take place.