[Update 4, 6 Feb 10, bumped again: Park has arrived at L.A.X. There's also video of him perp walking through the Beijing Airport while being mobbed by the press, much of it South Korean.
In contrast to his animated pose with his North Korean captors -- these obviously being the "good cops" -- look at this video and tell me the man doesn't look like one whose spirit has been completely broken. He looks thinner, with no obvious signs of physical torture, and every sign of being devastated, emotionally. I don't know if it's the statement he made or the decision to cross, but Park certainly regrets something. I feel terrible for him, though not as terrible as I do for the others he put in danger. He meant well. But he obviously knows by now that didn't do well.
Cute of Xinhua, by the way, to refer to Park as a "trespasser," making no reference to the reason Park walked up to the borders guards in broad daylight, petition in hand, while reporting his "confession" to the North Koreans as fact. But we'd expect no less from fascist China, would we?]
[Update 3: Via Yonhap, here's photo of him arriving in Beijing.]
[Update 2, and bumped: The Chosun Ilbo publishes this photograph of Park. I don't see any scars or bruises.]
Here’s the breaking news, straight from the relevant organ, no less:
North Korea said on Friday it will release U.S. religious activist Robert Park, arrested in December for illegally entering the country in a journey to raise awareness about Pyongyang’s human rights abuses. “The relevant organ of the DPRK (North Korea) decided to leniently forgive and release him, taking his admission and sincere repentance of his wrong doings into consideration,” the state KCNA news agency said.
KCNA said Park had confessed to illegally entering the state and that he had changed his mind about North Korea after receiving kind treatment there.
“What I have seen and heard in the DPRK convinced me that I misunderstood it. So I seriously repented of the wrong I committed, taken in by the West’s false propaganda,” KCNA quoted Park as saying. Defectors from the North say the state often uses torture to extract confessions. [Reuters]
It would be premature for me to assume that Robert Park (a) said those things, or (b) said them of his own free will, but if he did, I think it will vindicate my initial observations about Park. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that this would be happening now if those reports that he was beaten were accurate.
Now, who else finds it oddly coincidental that this should happen just one day after President Obama says he won’t put North Korea back on the terror-sponsor list? Am I out of line to suspect that a deal of some kind was struck? [Update: In its daily press brief on February 5th, State denied that there was any deal. Believe that if you wish. I certainly don't. The transcript will be here when it's available.]
So aside from getting one North Korean defector arrested and possibly exposing others to the risk of capture, what exactly did Park’s foolish act accomplish for the people of North Korea? If my speculation above turns out to be right, Park was traded for a very significant ransom payment indeed. Which means that, as I predicted from the beginning, Park’s actions did Kim Jong Il far more good than harm.
Hat tip to a valued reader and friend.
Update: Here’s KCNA’s report. Below the fold, you can read KCNA’s complete “interview” of Park in which he denounces the “false propaganda” about “non-existent human rights abuses” and heaps praise on the benevolence of the Sun of the Nation, who guarantees religious freedom for all! It’s definitely not to be read by those who’ve eaten in the last hour or who have expensive carpeting. I suppose we should keep our minds open until he can explain himself (sigh), but if he really said this, we should only pity him more.
On a side note, I’m deeply disappointed not to have been singled out by name as a source of “false propaganda.”
Pyongyang, February 5 (KCNA) — As already reported, American national Robert Park was detained for trespassing on the northern border of the DPRK in December last year.
He was interviewed by KCNA at his proposal while he was under investigation by the relevant organ of the DPRK.
At the interview, he said that he was taken in by the false rumor spread by the West and committed a criminal act in the end.
He went on to say:
I trespassed on the border due to my wrong understanding of the DPRK caused by the false propaganda made by the West to tarnish its image.
The West is massively feeding “Children of Secret State”, “Seoul Train” and other documentary videos with stories about non-existent “human rights abuses” and “mass killings” in the DPRK and “unbearable sufferings” of its Christians and the like.
This false propaganda prompted me, a Christian, to entertain a biased view on the DPRK.
So I didn’t know what to do at that time. I just prayed and fasted and that was my initial response, but year by year more news reports, international media reports came and there were more videos saying the same thing, in fact, saying that it was getting worse, and so that’s why I started to become more and more distraught. If there are people in concentration camps, if Christians are dying like this, if there is starvation I have to die with them. If I help them I would go to Heaven but if I don’t help them I would go to Hell.
At last I made up my mind to go to the DPRK.
Upon trespassing on the border, I thought I would be either shot to death by soldiers or thrown behind bars, prompted by Americans’ false propaganda about the DPRK.
However, the moment I trespassed on the border, the attitude of soldiers toward the trespasser made me change my mind.
Not only service personnel but all those I met in the DPRK treated me in a kind and gentlemanly manner and protected my rights.
I have never seen such kind and generous people.
People have been incredibly kind and generous here to me, very concerned for my physical health as never before in my life. I mean, my family, of course, is concerned about my physical health but people here have been constantly concerned and I’m very thankful for their love.
Another shocking fact I experienced during my stay in the DPRK is that the religious freedom is fully ensured in the DPRK, a reality different from what is claimed by the West.
Being a devout Christian, I thought such things as praying are unimaginable in the DPRK due to the suppression of religion.
I, however, gradually became aware that I was wrong.
Everybody neither regarded praying as something unusual nor disturbed it. I was provided with conditions for praying everyday as I wished.
What astonished me more was that a bible was returned to me.
This fact alone convinced me that the religious freedom is fully ensured in the DPRK.
I came to have stronger belief as I had an opportunity to attend the service in the Pongsu Church in Pyongyang.
I worshipped and there, there was the Jondosa, there, there was a pastor, there was a choir, they knew the hymns, they knew the word of God. That’s why I was completely amazed. But I began to weep and weep in the Christian service because I learned that there are churches and Christians such as Pongsu Kyohoe (Church) in different cities and regions all throughout the DPRK. They worship, pray and preach freely the word of the Bible and Christ word. I’ve learned that in the DPRK people can read and believe whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want, that there’s complete religious freedom for all people everywhere throughout the DPRK.
What I have seen and heard in the DPRK convinced me that I misunderstood it. So I seriously repented of the wrong I committed, taken in by the West’s false propaganda.
I would not have committed such crime if I had known that the DPRK respects the rights of all the people and guarantees their freedom and they enjoy a happy and stable life.
I have felt shock, embarrassment, shame. Here I’m in the lands where people respect human rights and, not just respecting human rights, they have actually loved me and showed me more than just human rights. They have shown me grace. I repent and ask for forgiveness to the DPRK for my misunderstanding totally DPRK’s reality and my criminal illegal behavior. Had I known the reality of the DPRK, what I’ve learned here, what I have been shown here, what I’ve been taught here, what I’ve been informed here by all the kind people here about the DPRK, I would have never done what I did on the December 25th and I repent and I’m very sorry.
Prompted by my desire to redeem the crime I committed against the government of the DPRK, I would make every effort to let those who misunderstand the DPRK properly know what I experienced here so they may have a correct understanding of it.
He, as a Christian, expressed his will to earnestly pray so reunification may be achieved and peace settle on the Korean Peninsula as early as possible.