Sunday, May 05, 2013

Tourism in North Korea doesn't always run smoothly

A Korean-American tourist, Kenneth Bae, has learned to be more careful about photographing street life in North Korea.  In case the point is still unclear, he'll receive some further education about it.  From the Daily NK, via Mick Hartley:
North Korea has handed down a sentence of 15 years of labor reeducation to Korean-American Kenneth Bae (Korean name Bae Jun Ho), who has been in detention since November last year.

Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) revealed the news in a brief dispatch on May 2nd, saying, “The trial of American citizen Bae Jun Ho, who was arrested after entering Rasun City for tourism on November 3rd last year, was held in the Supreme Court of the Democratic People’s Republic of Chosun (Korea) on April 30th.”

The Korean-language report went on, “The Supreme Court sentenced Bae Jun Ho to fifteen years of labor reeducation for undertaking anti-Republic hostile acts.”

The sentence handed down to Bae is similar in severity to that handed to Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two American journalists detained after illegally crossing the Sino-North Korean border in 2009. They were eventually handed sentences of twelve years each, but were subsequently released in August that year after Bill Clinton agreed to visit Pyongyang, where he met with Kim Jong Il.
But no one claims that Bae entered the country illegally. So what did he do?
It has been reported that Bae was caught taking photographs of child beggars during his scheduled 5-day trip to Rasun; however, the North Korean authorities have not formally revealed any details of his alleged crimes.[....]
Could it have been something even worse than taking pictures?  Or, on the other hand, did the North Korean authorities simply grab Bae as a hostage to be traded for ransom?  They've recently been successful in getting payoffs that way, so it no doubt looks like a promising business model ... as long as the tourists keep coming.

—Jeff Weintraub