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(2nd LD) Freed missionary 'very, very tired' after N.K. ordeal

2014/03/03 15:23

BEIJING, March 3 (Yonhap) -- An elderly Australian missionary who had been detained by North Korea since last month landed in Beijing on Monday and said he was "very, very tired" after being deported by Pyongyang.

The 75-year-old missionary, John Short, arrived at the Beijing Capital Airport earlier in the day, shortly after North Korea's state media announced that Pyongyang decided to release and expel him, citing what it calls a "generous" decision.

Hong Kong-based Short was arrested last month for allegedly distributing religious materials during his tour to Pyongyang.

"I'm very, very tired," Short, weeping, told journalists upon his arrival at the airport, escorted by an Australian Embassy official.

Short declined to answer a barrage of questions but added that he plans "to rest" before being driven away with the Australian official.

Australia's foreign ministry welcomed the release of Short.

In a statement, the Australian ministry said, "Clearly this is welcome news for Mr. Short, his family and his supporters."

   "Australian consular officials stand ready to provide assistance to Mr. Short to ensure he can return to his home in Hong Kong as soon as possible," the statement said.

The North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Monday morning that Short, who was detained on Feb. 18, apologized for violating North Korean laws.

"John Short committed a criminal act by secretly spreading his Bible tracts around a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang," the KCNA said in a report.

"He admitted that his activities were criminal acts hurting the Korean people's absolute trust in their leader, violating the independent right of the DPRK (North Korea)," the report said, adding Short "earnestly requested the forgiveness of the DPRK."

   North Korea "decided to expel him from the territory of the DPRK, thanks to the tolerance of the law of the DPRK and in full consideration of his age," it said.

North Korea has been detaining a Korean-American missionary, Kenneth Bae, for more than a year. Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for hostile acts.

Recently, North Korea also said it has been holding a South Korean missionary, Kim Jung-wook, for about four months.

kdh@yna.co.kr

(END)

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