The government news agency of North Korea Friday says Kenneth Bae of Lynnwood, Washington led a Christian mission across its borders for years.
Bae was arrested in November and charged with crimes against the state in Pyongyang. Bae has been sentenced to 15 years hard labor by the North Koreans.
Bae's friends have described him as a devout Christian based in a Chinese city 200 miles from the border with North Korea, where they said he led a tour company.
An independent news organization that covers North Korea said this week that Bae told a church in St. Louis he knew Jesus wanted him to be a channel to the North.
Reporter Chad Carroll with NK News says if he was leading missionaries to North Korea, he wouldn't be the first. "There's actually a rather large network of Christian Fundamentalists working in the Northeast region in North Korea who are helping bring refugees out."
And Carroll says if that actually is the case, Bae would indeed be breaking the law.
"Certainly, if he was involved in proselytizing, church planting, any of these kind of underground church movements, then that is a competing sphere of influence in North Korea and they don't like that."
The State Department has called for his release, but the US has no diplomatic presence in Pyongyang.
Copyright 2013 KUOW