North Korea has confirmed that it had arrested a US citizen in November, saying he had admitted to unspecified charges and suggesting he would be formally prosecuted.
The man, identified as Pae Jun-Ho, entered North Korea on November 3 as a tourist, and “committed a crime” against the country, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Friday.
“He was put into custody by a relevant institution,” it added.
The United States has no diplomatic ties with North Korea and KCNA said consular officials from the Swedish embassy, which acts on behalf of the US, had visited Pae on Friday.
“In the process of investigation, evidence proving that he committed a crime against the DPRK was revealed. He admitted his crime,” the agency said in a short despatch.
“Legal actions are being taken against Pae in line with the criminal procedure law”, it added, without elaborating.
The arrest was first reported earlier this month by a South Korean newspaper, Kookmin Ilbo, which had identified the detainee as a 44-year-old Korean-American tour operator.
The newspaper said he had been travelling with five other tourists and was detained when a computer hard disk was found among the group’s belongings.
KCNA said Pae was arrested as he entered the north-eastern port city of Rason which lies inside a special economic zone near North Korea’s border with Russia and China.
Several Americans have been held in North Korea in recent years.
In 2011, a US delegation led by Robert King, the US special envoy for Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues, secured the release of Eddie Jun Yong-Su, a California-based businessman, who had been detained for apparent missionary activities.
In 2010 former US president Jimmy Carter won plaudits when he negotiated the release of American national, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, sentenced to eight years of hard labour for illegally crossing into the North from China.
On another mercy mission a year earlier in 2009, former president Bill Clinton won the release of US television journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, jailed after wandering across the North Korean border with China.