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The North Korean Supreme Court sent a Korean American to 10 years of hard labour in jail on Friday over espionage charges.

Kim Dong Chul, who was arrested in North Korea in October, was accused of committing "unpardonable espionage" including the theft of military secrets.

"The Supreme Court of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on Friday sentenced South Korea-born U.S. citizen Kim Dong-chul to 10 years of hard labor for subversion of the DPRK social system and espionage activities," Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.

Kim told journalists he used to live in Fairfax, Virginia, and made successive trips to North Korea. He said he became a naturalized US citizen in 1987.

There have been conflicting claims over his domicile. He had told media after his arrest that he had been living in China near the border with North Korea for the past 15 years.

Recent records show that Kim was living in Chinese city of Yanji, which is merely 10 km away form the North Korean border. Kim had set up a trading company named Dongmyong in the Rason special economic zone.

Kim Dong-chul is a 62-year-old naturalized US citizen from South Korea. Various records show Kim was born in 1953 in Seoul and later immigrated to the US in 1972.

North Korea's KCNA said in October he was arrested as he received a USB drive containing military and nuclear data from a source.

Kim later made an apparent confession of guilt saying he had been commissioned by South Korean spy handlers 2011 to carry out paid espionage in North Korea.

However, forced confessions of foreign prisoners -- as well as the broadcasting of the confessions -- are routine in North Korea.

In the televised confession, Kim also named Pyongyang's arch rival United States as well. "You could say that my anti-North Korean behaviour was also instigated by the United States," he said, according to Xinhua.

However, South Korean intelligence establishment told western news agencies Kim was not in its payrolls.

Kim said in an interview with CNN in January that he did not work for the US but frequently visited North Korean special economic zone of Rason.

North Korean state media said Kim was in Rason to receive key secrets about its nuclear programme from a source.

The interview was held in the presence of North Korean security guards.

Last month North Korea sentenced US student Otto Warmbier to 15 years of hard labour for 'crimes against the state.'

Warmbier had been arrested in January while on a visit to the reclusive country and was charged with trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.

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