SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea Sunday put on display an American who had apparently entered the country illegally and who strongly denounced the US political and economic systems.
The man identified himself at a press conference in Pyongyang as Arturo Pierre Martinez, aged 29 and from El Paso in Texas, CNN reported.
He entered the North from China in November, according to a North Korean statement cited by the broadcaster, just two days after the US spy chief James Clapper arrived in Pyongyang to secure the release of two other detained Americans.
Martinez had earlier tried to swim across the Han river between the two Koreas to enter the North, only to be caught and sent back to the US where he was placed in a psychiatric hospital, his mother told CNN.
“But he got out,” Patricia Eugenia Martinez said, adding her son was bipolar.
“He…got the court to let him out and instead of coming home to us he bought a ticket and left for China,” she said.
At the press conference Martinez admitted the illegal entry but said he was “extremely grateful” for the North to have pardoned him and to have offered him “the most generous reception”, according to CNN.
It released images of Martinez obtained from the North’s government, showing him wearing a suit and tie and delivering a statement.
The North aired the criticisms by Martinez of his own government at a time when Pyongyang is under growing international pressure to improve its human rights record.