John Short is the most recent missionary to be thrown into the international spotlight following his detention by North Korean authorities on Sunday February 16. While the precise details of his detention have yet to surface, NK News takes a look the background and context of Short’s most recent trip to North Korea.
According to Christian website Gospel Attract, John Alexander Short was born on the January 26, 1939 in Barmers, South Australia. The website said he attended Adelaide Boys High School in addition to a Sunday school, before later graduating as a dental technician from Royal Adelaide Dental Hospital. In 1962, he joined Adelaide Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and two years later left for Hong Kong, in January 1964.
LIFE IN CHINA
Short initially worked in the Kowloon Peace Clinic from his arrival in 1964 to 1974, providing dental care for refugees leaving China and learning Cantonese, the local Chinese dialect.
The organization has distributed Christian material throughout numerous Asian countries including Burma, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. Short’s work with the organization often involved him travelling thorough such regions, disseminating Christian material, the website said. It also claims that Short went on to purchase the group, though NK News has been unable to independently confirm this.
Currently the organization has several publications that it distributes free of charge to “full time evangelist, pastors and believers in need” throughout China.
After Mao’s death in 1976, the staff of the Christian Book Room was able to move around China more easily. The ‘Gospel Attract’ site goes on to say that the group valued its “vast network that had been established”. At this time, the group was able to provide China with “with much needed Bibles and literature, teaching tools, clothing and practical fellowship”.
Short has also given talks on his experience of being a missionary in China, having spoken last year at the “CHINA … an insider’s view” conference in New Jersey. The event was hosted by the Christian Mission in Many Lands organization.
The website also claims that Short was arrested several times for “speaking out about brutality against Chinese Christians” during his time in China.
Finding it more difficult to proselytize in Hong Kong after 1997, he at one time became a persona non grata with the Chinese government and had his visa status rescinded. It was later returned when the authorities decided his agenda was non-political.
NORTH KOREA TRIPS
Short has been to North Korea before, having also travelled to Pyongyang last year. Various sources, including Short’s wife Karen confirmed to NK News that he last crossed into North Korea by train, though the original route is currently unclear.
Upon his previous trip to North Korea, Short’s wife also confirmed to NK News that he was questioned by customs officials about belongings that included an English bible. At the time Short “opened up his own personal English bible and put it on top of his luggage … and [the officials] were quite aggressive”
Karen Short went on to say that he told DPRK authorities that that bible was his and he read it every day. “He flew his colors right up front, he’s not cavalier or fool hardy and he believes Christians should be shining as lights not cowering in a corner intimidated by people who are anti-god or atheistic.”
His most recent trip, also to Pyongyang began on Saturday 15 February, was booked to return to Hong Kong on February 20. But Short was detained just a day into his trip on Feb 16, when police came to his hotel and questioned him.
Since being held by authorities, it has emerged that Short’s belongings included gospel text printed in Korean, despite the fact that he himself does not speak the language.
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