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The North Korean government has allegedly detained a 75-year-old Christian missionary named John Short, possibly for distributing Christian pamphlets.
“I know he’s courageous and he’s in God’s hands,” Short’s wife Karen told The Associated Press.
“I believe that at the right time that the right thing will happen and he will be released,” she added, saying she had been “shocked” by her husband’s detention.
Short reportedly had Korean-language Christian literature with him, and his wife said that could be the reason for his detention.
“He knew North Korea was not a tourist destination but he cares about the people and he wants to help,” she told Agence France Presse.
The Shorts, originally from Australia, are currently living in Hong Kong.
Short arrived in North Korea the morning of Saturday, Feb. 15, as part of a regular tour group. Reports indicate that North Korean officers detained him and a Chinese companion, telling them they would be taken to the airport and deported.
Short’s wife told Agence France Presse he never arrived at the airport.
Australia’s foreign affairs department is working on the situation through the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang.
Short previously traveled to North Korea last year, also as part of an organized tour. He was arrested multiple times for preaching Christianity in mainland China. His biography on the Christian website Gospel Attract reports that he was arrested several times in China for “speaking out about the brutality against Chinese Christians.”
Short and his wife have owned the Hong Kong publishing house Christian Book Room for 15 years. The company distributes Bibles, calendars and tracts, Agence France Presse reports.
North Korea severely restricts religious activity, allowing only groups officially recognized by the government. The country’s government views foreign missionaries as seditious.
“There's risk involved,” Short’s wife told the AP. “He knew that too, but when you know what you must do, you do it.”
She said she and her husband recognize that North Korea doesn’t welcome Christians.
“But that doesn't mean we stand by and don't do anything because we care for the situation and we pray about it but sometimes you have to do more than talk.”
The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights said in a Feb. 17 report that the North Korean state considers the spread of Christianity a “particularly serious threat” because it “challenges ideologically the official personality cult and provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the realm of the State.”
North Korea is also holding Kenneth Bae, a U.S. citizen, on charges of seeking to overthrow the government. He was arrested in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.