North Korea sentences two South Koreans to life terms
North Kore a Tuesday sentenced two South Korean men to hard labor for life on espionage and other charges, state media reaSeoul to release them.
The North’s Supreme Court handed down life sentences on charges of spying for South Korea’s intelligence agency, said Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The two, identified as Kim Kukgi and Choe Chun-gil, were also found guilty of trying to topple the communist regime, it said.
The South’s Unification Ministry expressed “strong” regret and said it cannot accept the North’s unilateral ruling.
The ruling “runs counter to international practices and the spirit of human rights and humanity,” the ministry said in a statement, calling for their immediate release and repatriation.
In March, Pyongyang
an- nounced the arrest of Kim and Choe saying they had operated as “heinous terrorists” while gathering information about state and military secrets as well as Pyonngyang’s leadership.
Choe was arrested last December by border guards, but it was not clear when Kim was detained.
At the time, Kim was accused of spreading “religious propaganda” from an underground church he allegedly ran in the Chinese border city of Dandong.
Choe was accused of recruiting North Koreans to gather soil samples from around the North’s main Yongbyon nuclear complex.
The two were among four South Koreans — two of whom were missionaries, according to South Korean church officials — who were detained after illegally entering North Korea.
The North has rejected South Korea’s repeated calls to free the four.