02/19/2014, 00.00
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Christian missionary arrested in Pyongyang for distributing "religious material"

John Short, a 75-year-old Australian, has lived in Hong Kong for about 50 years. His wife does not know "where he is and what he has been charged with". However, he "is not reckless," but simply "cares for people that live in such difficult circumstances."

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The government of North Korea is holding John Short, an Australian Christian missionary, for allegedly distributing religious material.

The 75-year-old has lived in Hong Kong for 50 years. His arrest took place on Sunday but the event was reported only today. He "knew the risks," his wife said, but he decided to go to Pyongyang.

Karen Short and her husband work for the Christian Book Room in Tsuen Wan, in the New Territories. She told the South China Morning Post that she first learnt about her husband's detention on Tuesday morning.

"This is out of the ordinary but we're Christian missionaries so my husband knew what he was going into," she said. "Ultimately we are in God's hands and we totally believe that."

Her husband "is a man of [. . .] convictions. The outcome is this because he was carrying Korean-language gospel material. They [North Korean authorities] are not happy," she explained.

During "The first [visit] he was in a bigger tour group - a busload - and went in by train. This time he flew from Beijing and they came to his hotel on Sunday night and started questioning him," she said.

During her husband's first trip, he was transparent about his faith and had openly read his Bible in front of North Korean government guides when in Pyongyang. "He's not reckless," she said, but "cares for people that live in such difficult circumstances."

She contacted the Australian consulate in Hong Kong for assistance, but the latter does not have direct links with Pyongyang.

The case was directed to the Australian Embassy in Seoul, which is currently "working with the Swedish consulate to determine where he is and what he has been charged with".

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