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North Korea Sentences American to 10 Years for Spying, Reports Say

SEOUL, South Korea An American who has been held in North Koreasince October was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor on Friday for spying and other offenses, Chinese and Japanese news agencies reported from Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

Kim Dong-chul was escorted to his sentencing in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Friday. He had previously apologized for trying to steal military secrets in collusion with South Koreans.

The man, Kim Dong-chul, is the latest United States citizen to receive a harsh sentence in North Korea, which has often used the fates of Americans held there as leverage in dealing with Washington.

His sentencing came a month and a half after North Korea sentenced an American college student, Otto F. Warmbier, to 15 years of hard labor for trying to steal a political banner from his hotel in Pyongyang.

Mr. Kim’s sentence was handed down by North Korea’s Supreme Court, meaning that it is final and cannot be appealed.

The verdict was reported by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency and the Japanese news service Kyodo, both of which have bureaus in Pyongyang. North Korea’s state media did not immediately carry the news.

The State Department in Washington has not explicitly confirmed Mr. Kim’s detention in North Korea, saying that discussing such cases publicly does not help its efforts to free Americans held in the North.

But the North has released a copy of Mr. Kim’s American passport, and officials in South Korea said Mr. Kim was a Korean-born American citizen.

In March, Mr. Kim appeared at a government-arranged news conference in Pyongyang and apologized for trying to steal military secrets in collusion with South Koreans. The South Korean spy agency has denied any involvement in such a plan.

Mr. Kim’s predicament was not known until January, when the North Korean government allowed CNN to interview him in Pyongyang.

At that time, Mr. Kim identified himself as a 62-year-old naturalized American citizen from Fairfax, Va., and said he used to run a trading and hotel services company in Rason, a special economic zone that North Korea operates near its borders with China and Russia.

He said he was arrested in October while meeting with one of his local sources, a former North Korean soldier, to receive classified data.

Over the years, North Korea has detained several Americans on accusations of illegal entry or spying and other so-called anti-state crimes. It has often given them lengthy prison terms before eventually freeing them, sometimes after the arrival of high-profile visitors, like former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, from the United States.

Some of the foreign captives told reporters after their release that officials had coerced them into confessing to crimes at news conferences in Pyongyang.

Besides Mr. Kim and Mr. Warmbier, North Korea is holding a South Korean-born Canadian pastor, the Rev. Lim Hyeon-soo, who is serving a life sentence of hard labor on charges of plotting to overthrow the government.

By Robert Muriisa.

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