SEOUL, June 1 (Xinhua) -- South Korea urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sunday to release a South Korean Christian missionary who was sentenced to hard labor for life two days ago.
The Unification Ministry in charge of South Korea's DPRK policy said in a statement that it was very regrettable for Pyongyang to sentence the missionary, Kim Jong-wook, to a hard labor for life through a cursory trial, urging the country to release and return him home as early as possible.
The ministry said the South Korean government made it clear that the DPRK violated international rules and spirit of humanity, urging Pyongyang to guarantee Kim's safety and arrange a meeting between Kim, his family and the government-appointed lawyer.
South Korea repeatedly called for the DPRK to release and return him home, but Pyongyang has never responded to it, the ministry said.
The statement came a day after the DPRK's official KCNA news agency reported that Kim, who has been detained in the DPRK since October 2013, was sentenced to a life hard labor for allegedly committing various "anti-state" crimes.
During the trial, where a large crowd attended, Kim was convicted of plotting to establish underground churches, subvert the government, illegally entering into the country and conducting spy activities at the behest of the South Korean spy agency.
Prosecutors in Pyongyang called for a life sentence, but lawyers demanded leniency as Kim repented of his crimes and apologized for it.
Kim appeared at the DPRK-arranged news conference in February, apologizing for his "anti-state" crimes. He said he was arrested on Oct. 8, one day after crossing into Pyongyang from Dandong, China.
The missionary also said that he sought to turn the DPRK into a religious nation and destroy its government and political system, while arranging spy activities of the DPRK people after receiving thousands of dollars and orders from the National Intelligence Service (NIS), the South Korean spy agency.
The severe punishment of Kim was believed to put pressures on the South Korean government under President Park Geun-hye, who opened a dialogue in the humanitarian issue but took a hard-line stance on the defense issue.
The two Koreas exchanged artillery fires on May 22 when two shells from the DPRK landed near a South Korean naval ship sailing around the disputed western sea border.