Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Korean-American missionary home after 15 months in Chinese prison

A missionary who was imprisoned for 15 months after trying to aid North Korean refugees in China has returned home to a greeting of balloons and flowers from delighted relatives and friends.

Wearing a baseball hat and dark sunglasses Monday night on his arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the Rev. Phillip Jun Buck, 68, said returning home was like being in a "dream state."

A son, Jamin Yoon, 35, holding flowers as his father was swarmed by reporters, said his father's attire was chosen to shield his appearance in case the longtime evangelist decided to try to go back to China for more missionary work.

Buck, who provided shelter and work for North Koreans in northeastern China, was convicted in December of trying to sneak North Korean refugees through China into South Korea. He could have faced up to 20 years in prison but was sentenced recently to deportation and a ban on re-entry to China.

Although activists concerned with religious freedom agitated openly for Buck's release, his four adult children shunned publicity while pressing for action from Congress and government agencies. His case was raised at a congressional subcommittee hearing in April.

[Associated Press]

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