N. Korean Agent Confesses to Aiding in Abduction of S. Korean Pastor

The alleged North Korean spy arrested last month in South Korea told a South Korean court Monday that he participated in the kidnapping of a South Korean pastor who has been missing for over four years.

"I committed such an act to make a living," Ryu Young-hwa, 35, told the court in Seoul.

"As I committed the crime, I will receive punishment," he was quoted as saying by South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Ryu, who was arrested three years after entering South Korea in August 2001, was charged on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2004 for helping North Korean agents abduct South Korean Pastor Kim Dong-shik from northern China. Kim, who was engaged in missionary activities in northern China, reportedly disappeared in 2000 while helping North Koreans living in hiding in China after fleeing their communist homeland. It is believed that tens of thousands of North Koreans are living in China after fleeing the hunger and political oppression in their homeland.

During a hearing at the Seoul District Court on Dec. 11, at which charges were brought against him in relation to Kim’s kidnapping, Ryu admitted to being an agent of North Korea's State Safety and Security Agency.

“He frequently went back and forth between China and North Korea, and was tasked with catching and forcefully repatriating North Korean defectors and the go-betweens helping them in China," a public security official from the Seoul Central District Public Prosecutors' Office stated after last month’s hearing.

The official also said that Ryu received instructions and operational funds from the communist North and was known to have colluded in a score of abductions similar to that of Kim’s.

According to the Associated Press, a court official confirmed that Ryu stood trial Monday, but said he didn't have further details. It wasn't clear what penalty he faces if convicted.

Meanwhile, the whereabouts of Kim have been unknown since his disappearance, although South Korea believes that Kim was taken to North Korea after being abducted. In addition, sources say South Korean authorities were reportedly tracking down ten other accomplices involved in Kim's abduction.