Aussies cautioned to obey other countries’ laws
HONG KONG (AP) – Australia’s Prime Minister today urged citizens abroad to obey the laws of foreign countries after an Australian missionary who carried Christian pamphlets was detained in North Korea.
John Short, 75, was questioned and then arrested in his Pyongyang hotel on Sunday, a day after he arrived in the North Korean capital, his family said. He has lived in Hong Kong for 50 years and has been arrested previously in China for evangelising.
“He was carrying Korean literature on his person and that could be the reason, but again I don’t know,” his wife, Karen, told The Associated Press.
While North Korea’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, in practice only sanctioned services are tolerated by the government.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his government would do its best to offer Short consular assistance.
“If you are in another country, be careful to obey their laws. If you’re in trouble, the Australian government is there to do its best to help,” Abbott told reporters in Sydney.
Last year, American missionary Kenneth Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour after being accused of committing hostile acts in North Korea.
Short, from Barmera, South Australia state, has been arrested multiple times while evangelising in mainland China, which he started visiting after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, according to a biography on a Christian website, Gospel Attract.
He was banned from entering China for nearly two years after his second arrest in 1996. Authorities later let him back in and he was arrested several more times for “speaking out about the brutality against Chinese Christians”, said the site.
Short’s wife said he was visiting North Korea for the second time. His first trip was a year ago “so he knew what he was going into”, she said. She said he wanted to be there “rubbing shoulders with people as much as possible”.