US citizen to face trial in N. Korea

A US citizen will go on trial at North Korea's Supreme Court on charges including trying to overthrow the communist regime, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Saturday.

It said Pae Jun-Ho had admitted to the charges and would face the court "at an early date".

Pae was arrested in November as he entered the northeastern port city of Rason, which lies inside a special economic zone near North Korea's border with Russia and China.

"All lower court hearings have been completed for Pae Jun-Ho, who was arrested after entering Rason on November 3 on a tourist visa," KCNA said.

"During the hearings, Pae admitted to the crimes of harbouring animosity against the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and attempting to overthrow the DPRK. His charges were completely corroborated by evidence," it added.

The report did not say what the charges were based on.

South Korean media in December identified the detainee as a 44-year-old Korean-American tour operator.

He was travelling with five other tourists and was detained when a computer hard disk was found among the group's belongings, according to the South Korean newspaper Kookmin Ilbo.

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.