Thursday, January 21, 2010

U.S. seeks access to Robert Park in North Korea

The U.S. government is pushing for access to an ethnic Korean evangelical activist who has been detained in North Korea since he walked across the border in a stunt to draw attention to human rights abuses there. The U.S. is hoping to make contact through the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, Radio Free Asia reported Tuesday.

A senior State Department official told RFA that Washington has "demanded the consular access through them [Swedish Embassy] but North Korea has not granted it yet." When two American journalists were arrested by North Korean soldiers on the North Korea-China border in March last year, Pyongyang granted the consular access within two weeks.

Meanwhile, an activist group calling itself Democracy Network Against North Korean Gulag at a press conference in Seoul on Wednesday demanded that the South Korean Unification Ministry take action to win Park's release. It said Park did not go to North Korea out of "selfish motives" but "to help save 23 million North Koreans." "The South Korean government is responsible for safeguarding the lives of our North Korean brethren and has a responsibility to get Robert Park released," it said.

But a Unification Ministry official said Park "is an American citizen and the incident is basically a North Korea-U.S. problem, not a matter for our government to be involved in."

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