Korean-American Activist Crosses Into North Korea (Updated)

careuterscom.jpgOh God, not again.

Reuters is reporting that Robert Park, a 28 year-old American, has walked across the Tumen River from China to the North Korean town of Hoeryong, which is infamous for being both the birthplace of Kim Jong Il’s mother and the town nearest to Camp 22. Park’s apparent objectives were (1) to get himself arrested and (2) thereby raise global attention about North Korea’s brutal political prison camps. Rest assured that Park will accomplish Objective Number One. The North Korean soldiers who arrested Laura Ling and Euna Lee in March are still being lauded as heroes.

The North Koreans have yet to confirm that they have Park in custody.

Park was known, but not well known, among American activists working to bring attention to North Korean human rights issues, help North Korean refugees, and pressure North Korea and the governments that sustain it with aid. Fellow activists who’ve e-mailed me in the last several hours describe Park as something of a fringe figure someone who orbited around them, but whose views were neither influential nor particularly well known to many of them. If Park was plugged into any activist organization, it must have been South Korean. Yet Park obviously wasn’t acting completely alone, and this stunt appears to have been premeditated:

Activists told Reuters that Robert Park, 28, had crossed into North Korea from China on Friday, while South Korea’s Yonhap news agency and the Kukmin Ilbo newspaper quoted activists who went with him to the border as saying he had crossed at a sparsely patrolled point near the northeast border city of Hoeryong.

Park was quoted by activists who went with the border as shouting when he went across: “I am an American citizen. I am bringing God’s love. God loves you.” The activists asked not to be named due to security concerns.

Park told to Reuters in Seoul earlier this week that he saw it as his duty as a Christian to make the journey and did not want the U.S. government to try to free him. “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 said on Wednesday before departing for China.

“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,” he said. [Reuters, Jon Herskovitz]

You’re on your own making sense of that one. Obviously, Park willfully confronted a grave risk, and it’s entirely possible he won’t come back from North Korea for a very long time, if ever. He doesn’t want to be ransomed out, and I hope (but doubt) there will be general agreement that he shouldn’t be. Yet given the amount of criticism heaped on Laura Ling and Euna Lee, Park will probably draw much harsher criticism and evoke less sympathy. If Park’s goal was to strike a blow against the North Korean regime, it’s far more likely that he’ll end up being traded back to a tool like Bill Richardson for a ransom paid in the form of money, diplomatic concessions, and political legitimacy. The only winners will be North Korea’s most opportunistic apologists in America and Kim Jong Il, who will again show everyone how magnanimous he can be toward our foolish children … for the right price. Park’s stunt will assuredly set back the very cause he claims to want to advance.

Some links in Korean here and here.

I’ve posted a copy of what’s purported to be Park’s statement below the fold.

Update: The description of Park’s bizarre behavior as he crossed the border further calls into question just what he hoped to accomplish, and whether that hope is remotely realistic.

A 29-year-old American Christian, claiming God showed him a vision of North Korea’s liberation and redemption, has entered the country to urge leader Kim Jong-Il to repent, activists said Saturday. Robert Park, a US citizen of Korean ancestry, crossed the frozen Tumen River from China and walked into the North without permission on Christmas Day, they said.

“While crossing the frozen river in a snowstorm, Park shouted loud, saying “˜I’m a US citizen, I came here to proclaim God’s love’,” a colleague of Park’s told AFP, quoting others who saw Park cross the border. “But all were silent on the other side of the river. We assume he was arrested by North Korean border guards there. But we don’t know about his fate,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Park, a self-proclaimed seer and activist, is a leader of an international campaign for North Korean human rights called “Freedom and Life For All North Koreans: 2009,” his colleague said. The group describes itself as a worldwide coalition of Christian ministries and activists working to promote human rights in the North.

Park reportedly carried a letter addressed to Kim and other leaders calling on them to repent. “I proclaim Christ’s love and forgiveness towards you today. God promises mercy and clemency for those who repent,” Park said in the letter, which was made public Saturday. “He loves you and wants to save you and all of North Korea today,” he said.

US embassy officials said they had no information on the reported incident. [AFP]

There are many brave Christian activists who risk lengthy terms in Chinese prisons to help guide North Korean refugees to safety, smuggle Bibles into North Korea, support its underground house churches, and propagate the blasphemy that there are gods greater than Kim Jong Il (a particularly worthy one is Helping Hands Korea). Those groups are doing much to help North Korea’s most vulnerable people and subvert its brutal system from the bottom up. One of those activists, Steve Kim, recently spent four years in a Chinese prison for sheltering North Korean refugees. Park, by contrast, seems to be one whose madness happened to find a vehicle in religion.

As easy as it is for us to reject the ridiculous notion that this quixotic act might cause Kim Jong Il to repent and experience a religious conversion, Park’s madness is only a few degrees removed from our foreign policy establishment’s faith that the right Special Envoy can inspire Kim Jong Il to repent and experience a diplomatic conversion. Scratch almost anyone in the State Department’s East Asia Bureau today and there’s a Robert Park who thinks that he’s The One who can do it. No doubt, as we speak, junior and has-been diplomats all along the Eastern Seaboard are imagining themselves escorting Robert Park up the steps of a charter flight at Sunan Airport, having left behind enough ransom aid to run a small concentration camp for years.

Here’s Robert Park’s manifesto:

To Mr. Kim Jong Il and North Korea’s Leaders:

I proclaim Christ’s love and forgiveness towards you today. God promises mercy and clemency for those who repent. He promises forgiveness for every sin and re-birth through the Holy Spirit for those who believe Christ died for the atonement of all their sins, as a sacrifice from God, given in love. He is the true and living God. He loves you and wants to save you and all of North Korea today. Please open your borders so that we may bring food, provisions, medicine, necessities, and assistance to those who are struggling to survive.. Please close down all concentration camps and release all political prisoners today, and allow care teams to enter to minister healing to those who have been tortured and traumatized.

All we are asking is for all North Koreans to be free, safe and have life.

With Love, Respect and Goodwill Towards All People,
> Robert Park
> 12/25/2009
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> 1) Vision Concerning Korea
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> On July 27th, 2009, “The Global Day of Repentance and Prayer for an Unified Korea”, God gave a vision and instruction concerning the necessity for mass, united demonstrations to arise for North Korean Liberation and Human Rights He revealed in the days which followed that through a constant, united, mass demonstrative movement;
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> 1) There would be Liberation and Redemption for the North Korean People (Including An International Movement of Compensation and Re-imbursement for Immeasurable Loss and Suffering)
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> 2) Korea would be Unified (With Worldwide Support)
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> 3) The Unified Korea will become truly Emancipated (freed from the influence/control of other nations)
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> 4) There will be Profound Reconciliation between North and South Koreans (as a result of South Koreans demonstrating sacrificially and unitedly for their North Korean brothers and sisters)
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> 2) Freedom and Life for All North Koreans: 2009
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> An estimated 7,000,000 people are starving to death right now in North Korea…
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> Virtually nothing is being done for these people…
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> An unknown number (at least 250,000) are dying in concentration camps of the most horrifying brutality and torture in North Korea right now having committed no crime…
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> Virtually nothing is being done to save their lives…
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> By murder rate (an estimated 1,000 persons everyday), the North Korean human rights crisis and genocide is the worst in the world today and demands immediate intervention…
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> Yet somehow there has been no action from the United Nations and International Criminal Court to indict Kim Jong Il’s regime of genocide and crimes against humanity…
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> The silence of the international community and responsible governments (America, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan) is heartbreaking and appalling…
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> In September of 1989 protests and demonstrations began which led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Germany…
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> On the 20th anniversary of these demonstrations, people from all over the world will begin unceasing demonstrations and protests which will lead to Korea’s unification.
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> Please join the global movement to demand freedom and life for all North Koreans.
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> — Contact television, print and radio media in your area and country, imploring them to raise awareness about the North Korean human rights crisis.
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> — Volunteer to be a coordinator or worker in your area to raise awareness and organize demonstrations for the liberation of North Koreans.
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> — Let us know if we can help you connect with others committed to human rights for all North Koreans in your area, to work together.
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> — Be a part of the greatest demonstration in Korea’s history, forcing the liberation of all North Koreans and facilitating Korea’s unification… NOW.
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> 3) LETTER OF DEMANDS TO THE WORLD COMMUNITY:
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> To the Leaders of Korea, America, China, Russia, Japan, the United Nations and the International Community,
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> We Refuse to Allow the North Korean Holocaust to Continue Any Longer. Over 4,000,000 Innocent North Koreans have been Murdered by Kim Jong-Il’s regime since 1995, and an estimated 1,000,000 North Koreans have been Murdered as a result of Slave Labor, Rape, Torture, Starvation and Execution in North Korea’s Political Concentration Camps. The Very Existence of these Concentration Camps makes the North Korean State Illegal, Illegitimate, and Criminal, and Demands The Immediate Intervention of the International Community.
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> Our Demands, based upon the foundation of International Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are as follows:
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> 1) The Immediate and Total Liberation of All North Korean Political Concentration Camps
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> 2) Compensation and Re-imbursement to All North Korean Victims of Slavery, Starvation, Torture, All Concentration Camp Survivors and North Korean People for Immeasurable Loss and Suffering
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> 3) The Immediate Stepping Down from Power of Kim Jong-Il and North Korea’s Leaders
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> 4) The Immediate Stepping Down from Power of All Government Leaders in South Korea Who Have Been Accomplice to, Allied With, or Supporting Kim Jong-Il’s Genocidal State
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> 5) Through the Guidance and Oversight of a Coalition of North Korean Refugee Leaders, in Partnership with President Lee Myung Bak and the International Community, WE DEMAND THE LIBERATION AND REBUILDING OF NORTH KOREA BASED UPON THE FOUNDATION OF ENSURING AND GUARANTEEING WITHOUT FAIL THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND SAFETY OF EVERY NORTH KOREAN INDIVIDUAL ACCORDING TO THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL LAW, WHICH WAS COMPOSED TO PREVENT THE ATROCITIES OF NAZI GERMANY FROM EVER OCCURING AGAIN. WE, THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY, HAVE ALL FAILED TO KEEP OUR PROMISE AND UPHOLD INTERNATIONAL LAW, AND MOST MISERABLY IN THE CASE OF NORTH KOREA.
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> Freedom and Life For All North Koreans: 2009, A Worldwide Coalition of North Korean Human Rights Groups, Ministries and Activists
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> 김정일 북한 노동당 총비서와 북한 지도자들에게:
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> 저는 오늘 당신들을 향한 예수님의 사랑과 용서를 선포합니다. 하나님은 회개하는 자에게는 자비로우시고 관대하십니다. 하나님께서는 인간의 죄를 대속하기 위해 예수 그리스도께서 오셨다는 것과 자신의 죄를 구속하기 위해 돌아가셨다는 것을 믿는 자들마다 그들의 모든 죄를 용서해 주시고 성령으로 거듭나게 하신다고 약속하셨습니다. 주님은 당신을 사랑하시고 오늘 당신과 북한 인민들을 구원하시기 원하십니다. 죽어가는 북한 인민들을 살릴 식량, 의약품, 생필품등과 살기위해 몸부림치는 사람들을 도와줄 물품들을 가지고 들어갈 수 있도록 국경의 문을 열어 주십시오.. 그리고 모든 정치범 수용소를 폐쇄시키고 정치범들을 석방해 주시기 바랍니다. 그래서 각종 고문과 상처입은 사람들을 치유하고 도와줄 사역팀이 들어갈 수 있도록 허락해 주시기 바랍니다.
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> 우리가 원하는 것은 단지 모든 북한 사람들이 자유롭고 안전한 생명을 누리는 것입니다.
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> 모든 북한인민들에게 사랑과 존경과 우정을 보내면서,
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> 로버트 박
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> 12/25/2009
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> 1. 한국을 향한 비젼
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> 지난 2009 년 7월27일, 통일 한국을 향한 전세계 기도와 회개의 날에 주님은 제게 북한의 자유와 인권을 위한 연합시위와 대규모 집회를 열 필요성을 비젼을 통해 일깨워 주셨습니다. 하나님은 지속적이고 연합된 집회와 대규모 시위를 통해 일어날 다음과 같은 일들을 보여 주셨습니다.
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> 1) 북한 인민들에게 해방과 구원이 있을 것이다. (그것은 극심한 육체적인 고통과 상처들을 보상해줄 국제 단체로부터 피해 보상도 포함될 것입니다)
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> 2) 국제적인 지지를 입어 한국은 통일 될 것이다.
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> 3) 통일 한국은 명실공히 자유로운 나라가 될 것인데 주변 나라들로부터 영향을 받지 않는 진정한 통일을 이룰 것이다.
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> 4) 남과 북이 진정으로 화해하며 하나가 될 것이다. (그것은 남쪽의 형제자매들의 동포애적 헌신을 통해서 이루어질 것이다.)
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> 2. 북한 인민의 자유와 생명: 2009
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> 약 7백만명의 북한 주민들이 지금 굶주림에 죽어가고 있습니다.
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> 사실상 이들을 위해 아무것도 취해진 것이 없습니다.
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> 또 지금 수 많은 (적어도 25만명 이상) 무고한 북한인민들이 공포와 야만적인 고문으로 인해 북한의 정치범 수용소에서 죽어가고 있습니다.
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> 이들의 생명을 살리기 위해 아무것도 행해진 것도 없습니다.
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> 살인지수로 본다고 해도 (매 일 약 천명꼴) 북한의 취약한 인권의 위기와 인종말살 행위는 오늘 날 전 세계에서 가장 악독하며 즉각적인 개입이 절실합니다. 그러나 유엔이나 국제사법 재판소에서는 이런 김정일을 인류의 범죄인으로나 살인자로 기소할 기미가 전혀 보이지 않습니다.
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> 국제사회와 소위 미국, 중국, 러시아, 한국 및 일본등, 책임있는 정부라는 이들의 침묵은 가슴이 섬뜩하고 아프게 합니다.
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> 1989년 9월에 있었던 독일의 군중시위는 베를린 장벽의 붕괴를 이끌었고 급기야 독일의 통일을 가져왔습니다.
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> 이 군중시위 20주년을 맞이하여 세계 각국의 인민들이 모여서 지속적으로 시위를 이끌어준다면 한국의 통일을 가져올 수 있을 것입니다.
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> 여러분도 북한 주민의 자유와 생명을 위한 전 세계적인 운동에 참여해 주시기를 부탁드립니다.
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> – 여러분이 살고있는 지역의 TV방송국, 신문사, 방송국등에 북한 인민들의 ì—´ì•…í•œ 인권 위기를 알리고 홍보해 주시기 바랍니다.
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> – 북한의 자유를 위해 여러분이 살고있는 지역에서 시위를 조직하고 이웃들에게 알리는 선봉장이 되어 주시기 바랍니다.
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> – 주위에서 여러분과 함께 일하고자 하는 사람들과 연결되기를 원하시면 알려 주십시오. 도와 드리겠습니다.
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>
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> – 한반도의 통일을 앞당기고 북한 인민을 자유롭게 í•  수 있는 한국 역사에 가장 위대한 민중시위에 지금 참여해 주시기 바랍니다.
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> 3) 세계 지도자들에게 보내는 편지
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> 한국, 미국, 중국, 일본의 영도자들과 유엔 및 국제 사회의 지도자들에게,
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> 우리는 북한에서 더 이상의 민족학살이 자행되는 것을 묵과할 수 없습니다. 1995년 이래 4백만의 북한 인민들이 김정일 정권에 의해 학살되었으며, 백만명 이상의 인민들이 정치범 수용소에서 강제 노동과, 강간, 고문, 기아 및 처형에 의해 살해되었습니다. 이런 극악무도한 수용소의 존재는 북한정권이 불법적이고 범죄적이며 결코 용납될 수 없다는 것을 보여주며 이는 즉각적인 국제사회의 개입을 필요로 합니다.
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> 우리들은 국제법과 우주적인 인권선언에 근거하여 다음과 같이 요구합니다.
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> 1) 즉각적이고 전적인 북한 정치범 수용소의 폐쇠를 요구합니다.
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> 2) 노예와 같이 굶주림과 고문등에 희생된 모든 북한인민들과 정치범 수용소에서 살아 남은 북한인민들에게 그들의 고통과 상처들을 보상하고 치유해주길 요구합니다.
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> 3) 김정일과 그의 추종자들은 즉각적으로 권좌에서 내려올 것을 요구합니다.
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> 전 북한인민의 자유와 생명: 2009,
> 전 세계 북한 인권단체, 인권운동가 및 선교단체 연합