American Citizen to Face Verdict in North Korea Court, KCNA Says

North Korea said it will hand down a verdict on a detained American citizen accused of crimes against the state, the communist country’s official Korean Central News Agency reported today.

Pae Jun Ho, who entered North Korea’s Rason City on Nov. 3 as a tourist, will face judgment in the Supreme Court after admitting to the charges, KCNA said, without citing a source. Pae was involved with a Protestant religious movement, according to a Dec. 11 CNN report that identified him as Kenneth Bae.

The U.S. had no immediate comment on the KCNA report, Beth Gosselin, a spokeswoman at the State Department in Washington, said by phone. A delegation that included former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson failed during its visit to North Korea in January to secure Pae’s release.

“In the process of investigation, he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK with hostility toward it,” the KCNA report said, referring to the country’s official name Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The Korean peninsula has been on edge since February, when Kim Jong Un’s regime detonated an atomic bomb in defiance of United Nations sanctions and then threatened preemptive nuclear strikes against its enemies. The Obama administration has rejected claims North Korea possesses the ability to launch nuclear-armed ballistic missiles while warning Kim’s inexperience raises the possibility of errors.

The KCNA report comes as the South Korea announced plans to start withdrawing its citizens as early as today from a jointly run industrial park in North Korea. The North on April 8 recalled its workers from the Gaeseon industrial zone, the last point of inter-Korean exchange and an important cash source for the impoverished nation.

Several U.S. citizens have been detained in recent years in North Korea. All of them have been released after negotiations. Eddie Jun, a Korean-American missionary, was released in 2011 after being detained for half a year for proselytizing, according to the Associated Press. In February 2010, North Korea released an American missionary, Robert Park, after he was held for about two months.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sangim Han in Seoul at sihan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stanley James at sjames8@bloomberg.net

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