SEOUL, Dec 21 (Reuters) - North Korea said on Friday it had
detained an American tourist on charges of perpetrating a crime
against the state and is putting him through criminal
proceedings, indicating it is set to try him.
Kenneth Bae, a Korean American tourist who travelled to
visit North Korea last month, has been detained by police in the
reclusive state, associates of his family and activists in Seoul
said last week.
His custody comes amid tension between Pyongyang and
Washington over a recent North Korean rocket launch, which U.S.
officials consider a provocative test of ballistic missile
"In the process of investigation, evidence proving that he
committed a crime against the DPRK was revealed. He admitted his
crime," the state news agency KCNA reported.
KCNA said Swedish Embassy officials had visited Bae on
Friday but provided no details of his condition or of the crime
with which he was charged. Sweden handles the affairs of U.S.
citizens in North Korea because the United States does not have
diplomatic relations with North Korea, or the Democratic
People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as it is officially known.
In Washington, t he U.S. State Department confirmed that a n
American c itizen had been detained, but declined to provide
According to North Korean law, the punishment for hostile
acts against the state is five to 10 years of hard labour.
Kookmin Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper owned by an
evangelical church, had said Bae had been arrested for carrying
a computer hard disk which contained footage of North Korea
executing defectors and dissidents.
It has not been possible to verify the report.
U.S. citizens of Korean descent have previously run into
trouble in North Korea. Robert Park, a missionary, was detained
after entering the country in late 2009 and says he was tortured
for protesting against human rights abuses.
Earlier that year, former U.S. President Bill Clinton flew
to Pyongyang to secure the release of two American journalists
who had entered North Korea illegally.
The two were sentenced to 12 years of hard labour in a work
camp for crossing the border illegally and "committing hostile
North Korea, which has twice tested nuclear devices,
launched a rocket on Dec. 12 that put an object into orbit.
The launch drew U.N. condemnation as a violation of a ban on
missile-related activities, but North Korea has said it was
exercising its right to space exploration.