north korea detains american missionary

Hope you enjoyed your holidays. I had a great time relaxing and enjoying time with loved ones. I'll be playing a little bit of catch up over the next few days, posting some interesting and noteworthy items that popped up during the break. Like this one...

By now, you might have heard that Robert Park, a 28-year-old American missionary from Arizona, crossed over into North Korea in an effort to call attention to the nation's human rights abuses. He was apparently detained by border guards immediately: NKorea apparently detains US missionary.

Park slipped across a poorly guarded stretch of the frozen Tumen River into North from China, near the northeastern city of Hoeryong, on Christmas Day carrying a letter calling on Kim Jong Il to shut down the country's political prison camps:
Jo Sung-rae of the Seoul-based activist group Pax Koreana cited a person who witnessed Park crossing into the North as saying that voices were heard on the North Korean side as soon as Park crossed over.

Jo quoted the person, one of two people who guided Park to the crossing, as saying visibility was poor. "But he said he heard people talking loudly when Robert arrived there," Jo added. "I think they were border guards and Robert was taken into custody immediately."

Members of Park's church in Tucson, Ariz., held services Saturday and Sunday night to pray for a safe return, said the Rev. John Benson, the pastor at Life in Christ Community Church. About 70 people attended Saturday's vigil, he said.

Park's father, Pyong Park, quoted his son as saying before the journey he was "not afraid to die, as long as whole world, all every nation pay attention to the North Korea situation, my death is nothing." The senior Park spoke to San Diego's KFMB television.

Jo said that two guides, who he described as North Korean defectors, filmed Park's crossing. But one of them is demanding payment for the footage and is refusing to hand it over.
Most of this information has come from activists with the Seoul-based group Pax Koreana, which promotes human rights in the North. Two other activists apparently watched and filmed Park's entry. No other information has emerged about happened to Park next. North Korea's state-run media has been silent, the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said they were aware of the incident but had no details.

In Park's letter, he calls for major changes to the totalitarian regime, including the closing of all concentration camps and the release of all political prisoners. In a second letter, Park calls for Kim Jong Il to immediately step down, noting starvation, torture and deaths in North Korean political prison camps.

Here's an interview with Park, apparently conducted by Reuters a week before he crossed over into North Korea, explaining why he was embarking on this journey: Interview with North Korea border crosser Robert Park.

I admire Park's conviction and fervor, and I'll be the first to acknowledge the terrible suffering in North Korea. That said, this is possibly the worst strategy ever devised to create change in the regime. While Park's detention will bring some attention to the situation, I highly doubt this is going to end the way he's hoping for. But my thoughts are with him and his family.

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