SEOUL (AFP) - A Canadian pastor being held in North Korea has admitted to planning "subversive plots" against the communist nation during a public interrogation, Pyongyang's official news agency reported late on Thursday.
Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim, of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was detained by North Korean authorities in January just after he arrived from China, according to Canadian consular officials.
Pyongyang's KCNA news agency, using its usual pugnacious rhetoric, said Lim had admitted to carrying out "subversive plots and activities in a sinister bid to build a religious state in the DPRK," using North Korea's official name.
"I have so far malignantly defamed the dignity and social system of the DPRK, pursuant to the scenario of the US and the South Korean regime," Lim was quoted as telling officials, media and diplomats at the People's Palace of Culture.
"I delivered a 'report on what is going on in north Korea' before tens of thousands of south Koreans and overseas Koreans at sermon on Sundays at my church and during preaching tours of more than 20 countries," KCNA quoted him as saying.
Reverend Chun Ki-Won, the director of Durihana, a South Korean Christian missionary organisation helping North Korean refugees, said Lim was one of the most influential Christian missionaries operating in the North.
He has led numerous aid missions to North Korea involving work with orphanage houses, nursing homes and food plants, said Chun - missions KCNA said were a cover for his plan to damage the "dignity and social system of the DPRK".
Pyongyang views foreign missionaries with deep suspicion and, while it allows some to undertake humanitarian work, anyone caught engaging in any unauthorised activities faces immediate arrest.
A number of missionaries - mostly American citizens - have been arrested in North Korea in the past with some of them only allowed to return home after interventions by high-profile US figures.