The PJ Tatler

NoKo Indicts American Missionary for Trying to 'Overthrow the Government'

Well, if you include feeding starving orphans, you might make a charge like that stick.


North Korea said Saturday it will soon put a detained American on trial for allegedly trying to overthrow the government, further complicating already fraught relations between Pyongyang and Washington.

The indictment of Kenneth Bae comes in the middle of a lull after weeks of war threats and other provocative acts by North Korea against the U.S. and South Korea. It has expressed rage over U.N. sanctions over a February nuclear test and ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills, though analysts say Pyongyang’s motive is to get its Korean War foes to negotiate on its own terms.

“For North Korea, Bae is a bargaining chip in dealing with the U.S. The North will use him in a way that helps bring the U.S. to talks when the mood slowly turns toward dialogue,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean Studies at Seoul’s Dongguk University.

Bae, identified in North Korean state media by his Korean name, Pae Jun Ho, is a tour operator of Korean descent who was arrested after arriving with a tour on Nov. 3 in Rason, a special economic zone bordering China and Russia.

He is the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The other Americans were eventually deported or released after high-profile diplomatic interventions, including some involving former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

“The preliminary inquiry into crimes committed by American citizen Pae Jun Ho closed,” the official Korean Central News Agency said in a brief report. “In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK with hostility toward it. His crimes were proved by evidence.”

The North Koreans may be upset with him because he might have been trying to convert people to Christianity:

But his friends, colleagues and South Korean activists specializing in North Korea affairs said Bae is a Christian missionary based in a Chinese border town who frequently made trips to North Korea to feed orphans there. It is not known whether he tried to evangelize while in North Korea.

Officially, North Korea guarantees freedom of religion. In practice, authorities crack down on Christians, who are seen as Western-influenced threats to the government. The distribution of Bibles and secret prayer services can mean banishment to a labor camp or execution, defectors from the country have said.

Of course, Iran pulls the same kind of crap and we let them get away with it too. Hostage taking in the 21st Century is far more nuanced than the simple snatch and ransom gambits of previous eras. These countries don’t want money — not in the sense that they expect suitcases full of dollars to be delivered at a pre-arranged drop. Their primary goal is to have the US pay attention to them — sort of like a pimply-faced teenage boy who can’t get the attention of the gorgeous girl next door and ends up slashing her tires.

We have several candidates to act as high-profile hostage negotiators. Jesse Jackson is available and is always eager to take center stage and tell the world how it’s all America’s fault. Ditto Jimmy Carter, although he may be getting a little old to go gallivanting around the world spouting his blame America first nonsense.

My choice is Dennis Rodman, who apparently really hit it off with North Korea’s number one NBA fan, the Dear Leader himself. Perhaps Dennis could show up wearing a wedding dress and really impress Kim Jong-Un. They may release Mr. Bae out of sheer amazement.

No doubt Mr. Bae will be returned safe and sound after a suitable interval and enough food is showered on the starving North Korean regime. To prevent this from happening in the future, the government should warn all Americans that if you travel to North Korea, you are on your own. We will not negotiate or otherwise intervene in securing your release.

We’d never do it, of course. Nor will North Korea tire of playing the hostage game in order to force the US to pay attention to it.