Monday, August 30, 2010

Why Robert Park and Aijalon Mahli Gomes went to North Korea

Since his release from North Korea, Robert Park has not spoken about his imprisonment—due in part, he said, to fears for the safety of his friend and counterpart Aijalon Mahli Gomes—and he declined to say anything publicly about North Korea until Gomes was safe.

It has not been an easy transition for Park, who said he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and that he fell apart as a person and felt tormented.

"After leaving North Korea, I went through a lot of things—I have been in and out of psychiatric hospitals and it's been very difficult because I know more now than ever how evil the situation in North Korea is," Park told Christianity Today in an exclusive interview. "Once you're there [in North Korea], in that position where you are observing what is happening and you are witnessing evil, and you come to the Western world and everyone is celebrating you are back—it can be aggravating."

During a phone interview from a hospital in Tucson, Arizona, Park said he is "haunted thinking about the people" in North Korea.

Park, who became a Christian when he was 21 and was ordained as a missionary in Arizona in 2007, said he came to love the North Korean people he met through his missionary work.

"I was working in China with North Korean refugees, and many refugees wanted to go back because they were concerned about their families," Park said. "The North Korean people are very good people, but the regime has no sense of right or wrong."

Park said he wanted to raise awareness about North Korea, confront the regime, and see human rights groups come together and unite for a mass movement.

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