North Korea has arrested a 75-year-old Australian man working as a Christian missionary in Pyongyang, according to his family.

A press release from the family said John Short was on his second trip to North Korea and was in possession of religious materials that had been translated into Korean. He is the second Christian missionary being held by the North, the other is Kenneth Bae, a South Korean with US citizenship.

Karen Short, John's wife, told Reuters news agency on Wednesday: "It's a bit traumatic, it's been 48 hours and my husband is still there. I'm not upset, we're Christian missionaries and we have tremendous support for what we do."

The family's press release also reported the tour company as saying that North Korean officials had refused to take their calls. Pyongyang has not confirmed Short's detention.

The Australian government, which does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, is using its consulate in Seoul and the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang to handle the case.

“We are in close contact with Swedish officials in Pyongyang to seek their assistance in confirming the well-being of Mr. Short and to obtain more information," said an Australian embassy spokesman in Seoul, explaining that its capacity to deliver consular services in Pyongyang was "extremely limited".

Karen Short said that on his first trip to North Korea, her husband had been transparent about his faith and had openly read his bible in front of North Korean government guides when in Pyongyang.

"He's courageous, this is my husband's character," said Short. "I hope things get better -- he's in God's hands, we both totally believe that. He won't be intimidated by the communists."

Short's wife also told the Associated Press news agency that he was visiting North Korea for the second time. His first trip was a year ago "so he knew what he was going into,'' she said.

She said he wanted to be there "rubbing shoulders with people as much as possible."

"There's risk involved," she said. "He knew that too, but when you know what you must do, you do it."

Source: Agencies