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.

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