North Korean authorities arrest a 75-year-old Australian missionary


A North Korea soldier stands guard on the banks of the Yalu River which separates the North Korean town of Sinuiju from the Chinese border town of Dandong, Dec. 17, 2013.


Mark Ralston

Another foreign missionary has been arrested in North Korea.

North Korean authorities arrested a 75-year-old Australian man in the capital Pyongyang on Sunday, media reports said Wednesday.

The man, John Short, was in possession of religious material that had been translated into Korean, his family said in a statement.

Short arrived in North Korea on Saturday as part of a tour organized by Chinese firm Beijing Tourism Group, his wife Karen was quoted as saying. It was his second trip to the country.

The Shorts run a Christian bookstore in Hong Kong and Karen said her husband had been open about his religious work during his first visit to the North.

His detention comes more than a year after American missionary Kenneth Bae was arrested in North Korea. The 45-year-old was eventually sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor for trying to overthrow the government.

More from GlobalPost: Kenneth Bae, US citizen jailed in North Korea, appeals for release

Washington has been pushing for Pyongyang to release Bae, who is in ill health, but the regime has refused to budge.

A UN report released this week sharply criticized the North Korean regime over the lack of religious freedom in the country.

The regime "considers the spread of Christianity a particularly serious threat, since it challenges ideologically the official personality cult and provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the realm of the state," a UN panel said in the 372-page report.

The report also put forward allegations of murder, enslavement, forced abortions, forced disappearances and state-directed kidnappings overseas.

More from GlobalPost: Your guide to North Korea's crimes against humanity

Australia, like the United States, does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea and is instead relying on its embassy in South Korea and the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang to handle Short's case.

Karen told That's Online, a website focused on Chinese affairs, that the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs had told her that her husband’s situation was “a different and difficult case."

Yet she remained defiant.

"I'm not upset, we're Christian missionaries and we have tremendous support for what we do," she said.

"He's courageous, this is my husband's character.

"I hope things get better — he's in God's hands, we both totally believe that."