The recent murder of a Korean-Chinese pastor in Changbai Korean Autonomous County was conducted by South Korean intelligence agents, North Korea’s Arirang-Meari news site claimed on Wednesday.
Pastor Han Choong-ryeol, a Chinese citizen, was found dead from knife and axe wounds in the Changbai mountain on the evening of April 30, several hours after he had left the church. He had reportedly received a phone call from an acquaintance before left.
Han was widely known as the person overseeing the largest defection route out of North Korea, via the border city of Hyesan, across from Changbai via the Yalu river.
“If those (murder suspects) were those who often met the pastor, then they have to be NIS agents,” the Arirang-Meari report claimed. “It doesn’t make sense for Pastor Han to blindly follow someone he doesn’t know at all.”
The site said that Han was deeply involved in preaching to North Korean defectors and leading operations to help them to defect to South Korea.
“Those who took Pastor Han that day (he was murdered) were people who used to visit Changbai Church from time to time,” Arirang-Meari wrote citing the anonymous source.
“Those who have showed up at the church are South Korean acquaintances of Pastor Han. I think they might have come from South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS).”
“Since the news spread in this region that the NIS was directly involved in the mass-abduction of 12 female North Korean workers, Pastor Han, who was engaged in sending defectors to South Korea, might have been under lot of pressure due to the locals’ view,” the Chinese source said.
“Meanwhile, he expressed his dissatisfaction with how the NIS is handling the business and publicly told people that he might quit working for the church. After that incident, Pastor Han disappeared.”
According to the Arirang-Maeari report, Chinese locals in the region believe the murder of Pastor Han was carried out by the NIS to keep attention off the backlash caused by the “forging” of the mass-abduction case last month.
“I think the NIS is making North Korea the scapegoat for the shocking murder of Pastor Han to change the direction of public opinion,” the source said.
Another North Korean media outlet, DPRK Today, made a similar claim on the same day.
Previously, a South Korean pastor activist told NK News that Han’s plan to build underground churches in North Korea caused his murder.
“Since last year, U.S. organizations have started funding him to establish underground churches in North Korea,” said Pastor Kim Hee-tae, president of the missionary organization North Korea Human Rights Mission.
Arirang-Maeari started its operation on March 1, calling itself independent, privately owned media.
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Featured Image: Cross (fade) by freddie_benjamin on 2009-01-11 15:49:17