The man said he was Arturo Pierre Martinez, 29, a U.S. citizen raised in El Paso, Texas.
Martinez’s mother, Patricia Eugenia Martinez of El Paso, said their son was bipolar and earlier tried to enter North Korea by swimming across a river, only to be stopped and shipped back to the United States, where he was placed in a California psychiatric hospital.
“Then he got out,” she said. “He is very smart and he got the court to let him out and instead of coming home to us he bought a ticket and left for China. He took out a payday loan online and left for China.”
She said the U.S. Embassy in Beijing is looking for him.
“My son is very intelligent,” she said. “He said he wanted to protect Latinos and he worried about the world and about people. At 15 he obtained his computer certificate. He loves to read and write and work on the computer. He loved to help poor people. He is our only child.”
Later she released a statement that said: “I’m glad and relieved that my son is safe. I am appreciative to the North Korean authorities for pardoning my son and releasing him. I look forward to spending Christmas with him after they release him.”
When asked how she knew her son was being released, she said it was from reading the press conference statement.
But the legal status of Martinez in North Korea is unclear and it’s unknown if he’s free to leave the country.
In his 4,000-word statement, Martinez admitted committing a crime by illegally entering the country but said he was “extremely grateful for having been pardoned from the punishments given to violators of these laws, and for the most generous reception I have received.”
He delivered his statement at a press conference he said he requested. Images released by North Korea showed him wearing a suit and sitting in a room facing a large group of people.
North Korea said in a separate statement that Martinez entered the country in November, two days after American diplomat James Clapper arrived. Clapper negotiated the release of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller, the last two American citizens known to be held by North Korea. They arrived back in the United States on November 8.
Martinez said he first tried to cross over from South Korea’s Han River and tried again from China’s Yalu River in Dandong.
He went on to criticize American politicians and police as well as the electoral and prison systems.
“The illegal war carried out against the nation of Iraq serves as a perfect example of how the U.S. government acts much like a Mafia enterprise, but criminally plundering entire nations of their resources, strategic reserves and economies instead of smaller scale business and individuals, and does so without a code of ethics,” he said.
He said the electoral system in the United States “is unfairly built for the benefit of the wealthy through the necessity of costly fundraising for political candidates seeking office. The democracy of this nation is an illusion and its representatives act as nothing more than power brokers for those who can offer them.”
Of the wealthy people in the United States, he said, “These billionaires in power are nothing short of sociopathic megalomaniacs on the path to absolute world domination.”
He also talked about unidentified flying objects, CIA involvement in the cocaine trade, “ultrasonic” devices that cause people to hear voices and experience bodily discomfort and how the Western news media unfairly portrayed North Korea.