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South Korea urges release of its missionary sentenced to life in North Korea

Published on Jun 1, 2014 2:29 PM
South Korean missionary, identified by the North as Kim Jong Uk, adjusts his glasses during a news conference in Pyongyang in this Feb 27, 2014 file photo provided by Kyodo. North Korea sentenced Kim Jong Uk to life with hard labour on May 30, 2014 after convicting him of espionage and setting up an underground church. -- PHOTO: REUTERS/KYODO/FILES

SEOUL (REUTERS) - The South Korean government urged North Korea on Sunday to release a South Korean missionary, Kim Jong Uk, who was sentenced to life with hard labour by a North Korean court on Friday.

"It is regrettable that North Korea went ahead with perfunctory trial procedures in a unilateral manner and gave our citizen severe punishment. We strongly urge North Korea to release and repatriate our citizen to South Korea as soon as possible," South Korea's Unification Ministry said in a statement.

North Korea sentenced Kim to life with hard labour on Friday after convicting him of espionage and setting up an underground church. North Korea's official KCNA news agency reported that the missionary had admitted his guilt at the court. "We have demanded North Korea free and repatriate Kim on several occasions, but it has not responded to our and the international community's legitimate demand. This clearly violates the international norms as well as universal value of humanitarian spirit," the statement added.

In an apparent stage-managed confession, Kim admitted in February to spying for the South Korean intelligence agency as well as trying to topple North Korea's isolated regime.

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