Thursday, December 31, 2009

S. Korean supporters rally to support US Activist detained in North Korea

Scores of South Koreans rallied in Seoul in support of human rights activist Robert Park, a Korean-American who crossed into North Korea on his own from China last week.

Activist Jo Sung-rae has known Park for about 10 years. He says Park planned his action by himself, but Jo offers his support.

Rally leader Seo Seok-gu says he expects that fear will lead North Korea to deport Park very soon. He says the world's conscience is focused on North Korea's next move in the Park case. If the North treats him harshly, he says, there will be a strong global media backlash. So, he says, North Korea will probably deport him.

Park said in a recent interview he is willing to be executed if it will spur international governments to action on North Korean human rights.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What makes U.S. missionary activist Robert Park tick?

More insights on Robert Park, as written by PSALT, a New Jersey-based organization that assists North Koreans:

Please pray for our brother Robert Park who is currently detained in North Korea. …Many are wondering how to digest the situation. We know that Robert's faith is genuine, passionate and wholehearted. He loves the Lord, and that God has stirred his heart deeply for North Korea. He was never one to be shackled by conventions, norms or others' schedules.

Robert made the dangerous journey because of his passion and obedience in faith to what he understood his calling to be. As friends and co-laborers of Robert we may, of course, find ourselves shocked and pray urgently for his safe return. But we must try also to avoid being distracted by Robert's unusual act and see past the confusion, debate and sensationalism. If Robert was going into North Korea out of curiosity, or for celebrity, we might indeed see his actions as reckless.

Instead, it was Robert's searing heart for North Korea (people, leadership, as a nation) and his vision to share the Gospel with his last breath that moved him across that frozen river knowing full well the consequences of his actions. Instead of engaging in debate, we need to intercede in prayer -- for Robert, for God's hand to move through his action, for God's divine purpose to be realized.

Many folks working in North Korea-related ministry or human rights movements not only want to help make a difference but would really like to witness a successful outcome -- this is natural. Everyone has a different calling and the degree of 'safety' in ones work does not necessarily make one's actions more noble and another's ignoble.

So, as we pray for Robert, we should focus on the reason why Robert made this journey, and the hope we share in for the people of North Korea. Perhaps we will never fully know, nor may we ever comprehend the full impact of his act of obedience -- however, we do know that His ways are not our ways; and each of us have a calling to follow faithfully, though the paths may be vastly different.

Markets are a way of life in North Korea

80 to 90 percent of North Koreans buy their daily necessities in the market. And each household has an average of one trader, making it unlikely that the regime will succeed in reverting to a centralized economy, an academic says.

Han Ki-bum, a North Korea expert and former National Intelligence Service agent in Seoul, citing interviews with North Korean defectors and sources in the North, wrote, "Some traders especially promote South Korean goods. Especially when young customers approach, these merchants tell them, 'Look at the [South Korean] brand. It's the best. Buy it or regret it later.'"

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

U.S. activist Park willing to die for North Koreans

North Korea said on Tuesday it had detained a U.S. citizen who entered its territory, apparently confirming a report that an American activist crossed into the state to raise awareness about Pyongyang's human rights abuses.

"A U.S. citizen illegally entered the country across the North Korea-China border and has been detained. The person is currently undergoing questioning by a related agency," the North's official KCNA news agency said.

Robert Park, 28, told Reuters ahead of the crossing that it was his duty as a Christian to make the journey and that he was carrying a letter calling on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to step down. Park, a Korean-American, had told Reuters he would not seek U.S. help.

"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 last Wednesday before departing for North Korea via 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," he said.

"I am going in for the sake of the lives of the North Korean people. And if he (Kim Jong-il) kills me, in a sense, I realize this is better. Then the governments of the world will become more prone to say something, and more embarrassed and more forced to make a statement."

Analysts say North Korea may try to use Park as a bargaining chip with the United States in their high-stakes negotiations over the North's nuclear ambitions.

Monday, December 28, 2009

American activist Robert Park “did not have a death wish”

North Korean border guards apparently detained an American missionary, Robert Park, 28, as soon as he walked into the communist nation in an effort to call attention to Pyongyang's human rights abuses.

Jo Sung-rae of the Seoul-based activist group Pax Koreana said that voices were heard on the North Korean side as soon as Park crossed over. "I think they were border guards and Robert was taken into custody immediately."

Unlike the situation with the two U.S. journalists being detained, and Bill Clinton intervening, North Korea watchers in Seoul said Park's case was unlikely to develop in the same way.

"I think it will end up an isolated episode," said Kim Yong-hyun, an expert on North Korea at Seoul's Dongguk University. "North Korea knows that it would be serving the purpose of the activist and highlight its human rights problems if it keeps holding him like it did the journalists."

Park's father, Pyong Park, quoted his son as saying before the journey he was "not afraid to die. As long as whole world pays attention to the North Korea situation

Park’s pastor Rev. John Benson said "You have to understand that for this guy, when it comes to the Lord, he's very, very serious. Unusually serious. … He was talking about the urgency of what was going on with the refugees and the atrocities he had seen. That was strong on his heart. He felt there was something more he needed to do. He was seeking God's will," he said. "But he did not have a death wish."

Read full Guardian article