SEOUL – Kenneth Bae was arrested and held on the North Korean side of a border crossing between China and North Korea, NK News can exclusively reveal, indicating Bae may have been arrested for a previous offence.
“Bae was arrested at the Wonjong border crossing – he didn’t even properly set foot in North Korea or Rason” a source familiar with the case working in the Christian community in the Chinese city of Yanji told NK News. The source wished to remain anonymous.
Although Bae will have visited the Rajin-Songbon Special Economic Zone (SEZ) previously, his arrest at the border indicates that he may have done something on a previous trip to upset local authorities.
“I believe Kenneth Bae was already on North Korea’s watch list – they would not touch a foreigner unless he was doing something to actively try and undermine the regime, especially under the current climate,” Kookmin University’s Andrei Lankov told NK News in Seoul.
The Wonjong [Wonchong] border crossing is the most frequently-used point of entry for merchants, businesspeople and tourists based in Yanji.
Kenneth Bae was working as a Christian missionary in Dandong, Dalian and Yanji, NK News exclusively revealed in May. He had originally been dispatched to China by Youth With a Mission (YWAM), an international missionary organization.
“For the last six years,” North Korea said in an article detailing his ‘crimes’, “Kenneth Bae avoided the eyes of the Chinese security services and sought to gather support from various groups, such as as our own expatriate community, the Chinese and Westerners.”
North Korea claims Bae had a following of “1500 people,” and worked with other South Korean missionaries to create an “anti-government coalition.” “Operation Jericho” attempted to mobilize 250 of Bae’s “followers” to enter Rason, a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) that borders China, and base themselves from the Rajin Hotel, North Korea said in a statement regarding Bae’s trial and arrest.
“Operation Jericho” is a biblical reference to a city closed to outside access. “No one went out and no one came in,” the story says. According to the bible, God “orders “Joshua to lead men around the city,” and “sound trumpets,” after which “the wall of the city will collapse.”
Bae details Operation Jericho and his missionary work in North Korea in the below video, exclusively revealed by NK News in May.
“We are going to send 300 people to pray in Rason. Just as God made people enter Jericho and cause it to collapse without force,” Bae says in a sermon to a St. Louis church. “I hope the wall between us will collapse soon through our praying and worship in the Rason area.”
“I’m now touring churches in the U.S. asking them to send 10 people per church to worship for one week in Rason. Any American citizen may join. Just a few people is not enough anymore, many people should join in this project.”
More exclusive NK News coverage of the Kenneth Bae case:
- Exclusive: Korean-American Imprisoned by North Korean Authorities is ‘Nations Tour’ Owner
- North Korea Confirms Arrest of “Kenneth” Bae
- Detained American was missionary dispatched to China
- The Kenneth Bae story: in his own words
- Kenneth Bae was arrested for plotting “Operation Jericho”
- Kenneth Bae sentenced to 15 years hard labor
- ANALYSIS: Where Kenneth Bae is being detained
- Kenneth Bae will be released, but not for a while