John Short, the 75-year-old Christian missionary who was recently freed from imprisonment in North Korea, said remembering Bible scriptures helped him through his "grueling" 13-day investigation by government authorities.
"There were two-hour sessions each morning, which were repeated again in the afternoons," Short, originally from South Australia, told the Australian Associated Press, adding that he was also kept under 24-hour guard watch for the duration of his imprisonment.
The 75-year-old Christian missionary, who has resided in Hong Kong since 1964, told the news agency that the interrogations were especially difficult because he is an avid walker, and being forced to sit in an enclosed room all day really took a toll on his physical health. "This I found to be most painful physically as an active senior person," he said. "I missed my freedom to walk very much."
Short was received by Australian embassy officials in Beijing on Monday after being released by North Korean government officials in part due to his old age, according to the state-run media agency KCNA. Before Short's release, the missionary provided a statement admitting to breaking country laws by distributing Bible tracts, both near a Buddhist temple and on a crowded train. It is not unusual for North Korea's government officials to force prisoners to release a "confession" admitting their "crimes" before they can be freed.
"I wanted more Korean people to be Christians therefore I secretly spread Bible tracts written by me," Short wrote in his confession. "I heard from the TV and newspaper reports that the DPRK is the closest closed socialist country in the world. I heard from the reports the religious freedom is not in North Korea. And that foreigners are not welcome to visit or attend for the Church. In the process of hearing the reports I questioned if it was true."
"On February 16, I visited the Popun temple and committed a criminal act by secretly spreading my Bible tracts around the temple. I deeply apologize for what I have done by spreading my Bible tracts on February 16th, the birthday of His Excellency Kim Jong Il ... I now realize the seriousness of my insult to the Korean people ... because I made the Korean people angry and for this I truly apologize."
Short has reportedly been arrested before for his evangelism attempts in mainland China, and said in his confession that he also visited North Korea in 2012 with the purpose of distributing Bible tracts.
Just last week, a South Korean Christian missionary being held in North Korea was presented to the media, where he gave a "confession" to his "crimes" that allegedly involved attempting to destroy "[North Korea's] present government and political system." In December, American veteran Merrill Newman was released after months of detainment. Newman had been on a 10-day tour of the country in October when he was arrested for mentioning the Korean War.
Kenneth Bae, an American Christian missionary, still remains imprisoned in North Korea. He was arrested in November 2012 and charged with trying to overthrow the government through religious activities. The 45-year-old has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for his alleged "crimes," but his family in the U.S. continues to fight for his release.