Former North Korean Political Prisoner Claims He Was Spying for U.S., South Korea

Kim Dong-chul
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

South Korean-American pastor Kim Dong-chul, released by the North Korean regime last year after spending two years in a labor camp, stated in an interview published Tuesday he had been spying on behalf of Washington and Seoul.

Kim, who was arrested in the northeastern city of Rason in October 2015, had been sentenced to ten years of hard labor on charges of espionage and subversive acts against Pyongyang the following April.

At the time he was forced to make a televised confession where he claimed to have been running a trading and hotel business in the Rason special economic zone near North Korea’s borders with China and Russia. He also admitted to working for “conservative elements” of the South Korean government in 2013 by bribing North Korean officials to provide him with secret information about Pyongyang’s military plans and nuclear weapons program.

“I filmed footage with a watch (equipped with a camera) and used electromagnetic wave wiretapping equipment,” Kim alleged in the interview NK News published Tuesday. “I became a traitor overnight and was locked up in a forced labor camp. I hit rock bottom.”

During the interview, Kim explained how intelligence agencies had allegedly asked him to work as an “antenna” within the country by providing detailed information on the North Korean military and the progression of the regime’s nuclear weapons program.

“The CIA detected a suspicious vessel at the Rajin port through satellite imagery and asked me to take very close-up photos of it and figured out what it was being used for,” he continued. “I delivered that information just before (my arrest).”

He also shed light on his experiences within the prison camp, where he says he was subject to vigorous cross-examinations, regular beatings, and torture that has left half his body partially paralyzed and unable to move properly.

“I was subjected to water torture eight times. And I tried a few times to take my own life. But I could not die,” he explained. “At some point, I could not remember my answers. And sometimes, my statements were different. And then the water torture and beatings began, and I was tortured in unusual ways. I completely gave up.”

Kim was one of the three American citizens released as a goodwill gesture by the North Korean regime ahead of President Donald Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong-un in Singapore last June.

Foreigners are often arrested in North Korea for supposedly “hostile acts” against the regime and, when imprisoned, face some of the most brutal conditions in the world. There are currently no known American citizens detained in the country, although there remain six South Korean languishings in jail, despite the “continuous efforts” of Seoul to secure their release.

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