American missionary detained in North Korea
December 29, 2009
(ChattahBox) – Not to make light of a potential serious situation but North Korean leader Kim Jong-il apparently has an American hostage, that he might be anxious to return quickly. The United States has confirmed that North Korea is holding an unnamed American citizen, believed to be 28-year-old Arizona missionary Robert Park, who had illegally entered on Christmas Eve, with a message of “love and forgiveness” for leader Kim Jong-il. Park who is of Korean ancestry, is said to have crossed the frozen Tumen River into the country from China in an effort to raise awareness about the suffering of the North Korean people. That message is not likely to be taken well by North Korean authorities, who deny any human rights abuses. In interviews before he departed Park a Christian activist, said he was willing to die in North Korea in order to bring attention to the many North Koreans who suffer from chronic food shortages and are detained in harsh prison camps throughout the country. His colleagues reported that he crossed the border shouting, “I came here to proclaim God’s love.”
North Korea is believed to hold up to 200,000 political prisoners in camps across the country. Kim Jong-il could try to use Park as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the U.S., as it did when it detained two American journalists in March. Or they may decide keeping Park could help bring focus to the issues he represents.