news services
updated 4/6/2010 9:58:50 PM ET 2010-04-07T01:58:50

North Korea said Wednesday it has sentenced an American man to eight years' hard labor and a fine equivalent to $700,000 for entering the country illegally and unspecified hostile acts.

Aijalon Mahli Gomes was fined 70 million won after acknowledging his wrongdoing during a court trial Tuesday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said in a brief dispatch.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said the official exchange rate in North Korea is 100 North Korean won to one dollar, which means the fine would equal $700,000.

Representatives of the Swedish Embassy in North Korea, which looks after U.S. interests in the country, witnessed the trial at their request, it said.

The North said last month that it arrested Gomes, 30, of Boston, on Jan. 25 for trespassing after he crossed into the country from China.

Gomes is the fourth American detained in communist North Korea on charges of illegal entry in little over 12 months.

Two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, were arrested in March last year near the Chinese border and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for illegal entry and engaging in hostile acts. They were freed in August after former U.S. President Bill Clinton made a high-profile humanitarian visit to Pyongyang to negotiate their release.

On Christmas, American missionary Robert Park strode into North Korea from China on a self-proclaimed mission to draw attention to North Korea's human rights record and to call for leader Kim Jong Il to step down. He was released in February after more than 40 days in custody.

It was not immediately clear why Gomes, a graduate of Bowdoin College in Maine who taught English in South Korea, went to the North.

The State Department has said the U.S. wants to make sure he is returned to the United States as soon as possible.

© 2013


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