Australian detained in North Korea left Christian pamphlets in temple: witness

An Australian Christian missionary being detained in North Korea left religious pamphlets in a Buddhist temple, his travel companion says.

John Short, 75, arrived in Pyongyang on Saturday and was taken from his hotel by local police days later.

His companion Wang Chong told the ABC Short left pamphlets promoting Christianity at the temple during a tour.

Short’s local tour guide later reported his actions, which would be in breach of strict laws against spreading religious material, to the North Korean authorities.

The Chinese travel company, which booked Short’s trip, said it had been told he had admitted to travelling to North Korea for purposes other than tourism.

He had missed a planned visit of local sites with the tour company on the third day of the trip.

“So the North Koreans could’ve become even more suspicious that he wasn’t there as a tourist,” BTG employee Han Weiping told the ABC.

Short’s wife, Karen, says her husband could be sentenced to hard labour for possession of illegal materials.

She said her husband went to Pyongyang because he wanted to help locals in “a dark and difficult place”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has told Karen Short her husband’s consular case is “different and difficult”.

It was in contact with Swedish authorities, who handle Australia’s consular interests in North Korea, to confirm Short’s wellbeing.