Recruiter In Korea

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This guy!

Korean-American slips into the North
Missionary says he wants to tell Kim Jong-il to free prisoners and resign
December 28, 2009
Robert Park

A Korean-American Christian missionary made an unauthorized journey into North Korea on Christmas Day, trying to persuade Kim Jong-il to step down and release political prisoners.

Robert Park, 28, walked across the frozen Tumen River that borders China and North Korea, according to Seoul-based activists.

A member of the multinational group named Liberty and Life for All North Koreans 2009, which promotes human rights in North Korea, said Park carried a letter addressed to Kim Jong-il urging him to open the border so that food and medication aid can reach dying North Koreans and to shut down concentration camps and free all political prisoners. Park is the head of the group.

Another activist who witnessed Park’s crossing said the missionary shouted, “I am an American citizen. I brought God’s love. God loves you and God bless you,” and added Park slipped in through a poorly-guarded area near the northeastern North Korean city of Hoeryong.

In a letter posted on the Web site of another human rights group, Pax Koreana, Park’s parents said they “respect” their son’s willingness to help North Koreans.

North Korea’s state-run media have remained silent through press time last night. The U.S. embassies in Seoul and Beijing said they were aware of Park’s entry but offered no details.

The U.S. State Department also kept mum. When asked to address the incident, spokesman Andrew Laine said, “The U.S. government places the highest priority on the protection and welfare of American citizens.”

Park’s illegal crossing could add a new complication to the U.S. efforts to persuade North Korea to return to stalled six-party nuclear talks. North Korea doesn’t take outside criticism of its regime particularly well and interprets it as a challenge to its “Dear Leader.” The North’s criminal code punishes unauthorized entry with several years in a labor camp.

Earlier this month, the United States and North Korea met for their first bilateral meeting under the Obama administration and reached a mutual agreement on the importance of the resumption of the six-party talks. No date has been scheduled for a next meeting, but Pyongyang said it would keep cooperating with Washington to narrow their differences.

Last March, two U.S. journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, crossed the Tumen River into the North during a reporting trip and were detained for nearly five months. After they were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for “hostile acts,” former U.S. President Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang to meet Kim Jong-il and gained their release in August.

But before his departure, Park told Reuters that he was willing to be a martyr for incarcerated North Koreans and that he didn’t want the U.S. government to negotiate his release.

“I don’t want President Obama to come and pay to get me out. But I want the North Korean people to be free,” Park was quoted as saying. “Until the concentration camps are liberated, I do not want to come out. If I have to die with them, I will. [For] these innocent men, women and children, as Christians, we need to take the cross for them. The cross means that we sacrifice our lives for the redemption of others.”

The United States and North Korea don’t have formal diplomatic ties, and Washington has to rely on the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang as the contact point.

The South Korean and the United States governments estimate that the North holds about 160,000 political prisoners in camps across the nation. The North has long been criticized for frequent violations of human rights and the United Nations has adopted resolutions condemning such practices. But North Korea has denied that the prison camps exist.

By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]

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Written by recruiterinkorea

December 28, 2009 at 9:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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