United States citizen and "devout Christian" Kenneth Bae is set to spend the next 15 years in a North Korea prison camp for possessing a National Geographic documentary, among other things. The North Korean state news agency say that the film "Don't Tell My Mother I'm in North Korea" is one of several "propaganda materials" that Bae brought into the country as part of Christian conspiracy to overthrow the North Korean government. That conspiracy, the Korean Central News Agency contends, is called "Operation Jericho," and it is not okay.
This situation is even crazier than we previously realized, and it was already pretty crazy. Bae, who was sentenced last week to hard labor for his alleged plot against the Kim regime, was a known evangelist that pushed the limits of what the North Korean government would tolerate. While some suspected that he was using his tour guide company to sneak missionaries into the country, it's remained a mystery why the North Korean government cracked down so hard on him. After all, Bae was hardly the only fervent missionary in the country. Sure, he might've snuck some photos of starving children out of the country, but really? Fifteen years?
The perceived severity of an all out conspiracy to overthrow the regime makes more sense. However, it's important to realize that the religious element of the affront is very important. Gawker's Adrian Chen spoke to Todd Nettleton, the director of media development for the anti-Kim regime Christian organization Voice of the Martyrs, and offers a clearer picture of how North Korea feels so threatened. "The deification of Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Il, their political system is built on that idea," Nettleton said. "A new religion coming in is not just a religion—it literally undermines the very foundation of the government. North Koreans who accept Christ aren't just accepting a religion, they're committing a treasonous act."
Watch "Don't Tell My Mother I'm in North Korea" in full: