North Korea yesterday deported a 75-year-old Australian missionary, detained last month for distributing religious material, after he signed a detailed “confession” and apology.
Hong Kong-based John Short arrived in Beijing on a commercial flight from Pyongyang just hours after the North’s official KCNA news agency announced he was being released.
“I’m really, really tired,” a tearful Short said, breaking down in front of reporters at Beijing airport.
He had been arrested a week ago after leaving “Bible tracts” in a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang during a tour.
His release came as North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the sea in a sign of the tensions on the Korean Peninsula fueled by ongoing South Korea-US joint military drills.
KCNA said the “generous” decision to release and expel Short had been taken in light of his advanced age and his display of contrition.
The news agency released a copy of his confession, along with photographs showing him affixing his thumb in red ink to the document, which he also signed and read out.
“I realize that my actions are an indelible hostile act against the independent right and laws of the [North],” the confession read.
“I request forgiveness ... and am willing to bow down on my knees,” it said.
Confessions and self-criticisms — scripted by the authorities — are normally a prerequisite for detained foreigners seeking release in North Korea.
Observers said Pyongyang likely regarded Short as harmless and had played up his deportation as an act of diplomatic largesse, while continuing to hold a more high-profile detainee — Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae.
Bae was arrested in November 2012 and later sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor on charges of seeking to topple the government.
Since the beginning of this year, North Korea has played both hawk and dove, offering conciliatory gestures one day and issuing dire threats the next. At the same time, the North has flexed its military muscles by firing a total of six short-range missiles into the sea in the space of five days.