North Korea sends another U.S. citizen to prison

Sunday, May 1, 2016

PYONGYANG, North Korea -- North Korea sentenced a U.S. citizen of Korean heritage to 10 years in prison with hard labor after convicting him of espionage and subversion, the second American it has put behind bars this year.

Kim Dong Chul was sentenced Friday after a brief trial in Pyongyang by North Korea's Supreme Court, which found him guilty of espionage and subversion under Articles 60 and 64 of the North's criminal code.

Further details were not immediately available. When Kim was paraded before the media in Pyongyang in March, he said he had collaborated with and spied for South Korean intelligence authorities in a plot to bring down the North's leadership and had tried to spread religion among North Koreans before his arrest in the city of Rason last October.

Some previously arrested foreigners have read declarations of guilt that they later said were coerced.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service, the country's main spy agency, has said Kim's case isn't related to the organization in any way.

Gabrielle Price, State Department spokeswoman for East Asia and the Pacific, said the U.S. was aware of the reports a U.S. citizen had been sentenced to 10 years of hard labor, but could not comment further due to privacy considerations.

In March, North Korea sentenced Otto Warmbier, an American university student, to 15 years in prison with hard labor. It said he engaged in anti-state activities while visiting the country as a tourist earlier this year.

Most Americans who have been sentenced to long prison terms have been released before serving their full time.

North Korea has often waited until senior U.S. officials or statesmen came personally to seek the release of the detainees, all the way up to former President Bill Clinton, whose visit in 2009 secured the freedom of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling. Both had crossed North Korea's border from China illegally.

About 28,000 American troops are deployed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from North Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Panmunjom, located inside the 2.5-mile-wide Demilitarized Zone that bisects the Korean Peninsula, is where the 1953 armistice was signed.

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