Only days after claiming to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, North Korea has now revealed the identity of a U.S. citizen that was arrested on espionage charges. The prisoner, identified as Kim Dong Chul, spoke to CNN’s Will Ripley, asking for aid from the United States and South Korea.
The revealing of a United States detainee in North Korea has only heightened tensions, with discussions to increase the number of troops in South Korea currently taking place.
North Korean guards demanded the interview be conducted in Korean, and was later translated by CNN. In it, Kim claimed that he moved to Yanji, a Chinese city near the North Korean border, and traveled frequently within North Korea where he served as president of an international trade and hotel company. Kim revealed that he began spying on the North since 2013 for “South Korean conservative elements.” He was arrested in October of 2015.
Kim is said to be in good health, with three square meals a day. He is aware of the recent Hydrogen bomb test, saying, “it was now time for the U.S. government to drop its hostile policies against North Korea.” It should be noted that Kim was with North Korean officials during this interview, and it is unknown whether he made his statements under duress.
The U.S. State Department could not confirm the identity of Kim, and told CNN that, “speaking publicly about specific purported cases of detained Americans can complicate our tireless efforts to secure their freedom.”
Tensions on the Korean peninsula are at an all-time high, with the South resuming propaganda broadcasts across the border. The North considers these broadcasts as an act of war and fired artillery shells at the speakers in August of 2015.
The reveal of a U.S. prisoner will likely add to the already high strain between the hermit kingdom and the United States. It will now be a waiting game to see how the U.S. responds, and what sentence will be given to Mr. Kim.