By BosNewsLife Asia Service with BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (BosNewsLife)– A 28-year-old American Christian missionary has entered North Korea to urge leader Kim Jong Il to “repent” and “release political prisoners” and others persecuted for their faith, fellow activists said Saturday December 26.
Robert Park crossed into North Korea from China late Friday, December 25, carrying a letter urging the North Korean leader to free political prisoners, including Christians, shut down “the concentration camps” where they are held, and open the borders to allow aid teams to enter.
South Korea and Western governments say North Korea maintains a network of political prisons. North Korea has strongly denied these allegations.
Activists who went with him to the border said that, “While crossing the frozen river in a snowstorm, Park shouted loud, saying ‘I’m a US citizen, I came here to proclaim God’s love’.”
“But all were silent on the other side of the river. We assume he was arrested by North Korean border guards there. But we don’t know about his fate,” an activist said on condition of anonymity.
The activists asked not to be named due to security concerns. A video was to be released shortly.
Park told reporters earlier this week in Seoul that he saw it as his Christian duty to make the journey and did not want the U.S. government to try to free him.”I don’t want President Obama to come and pay to get me out. But I want the North Korean people to be free,” he explained.
A colleague said Park, a Korean-American, is a member of an international campaign called “Freedom and Life for All North Koreans.” There has been no response from the North about the crossing.
American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, of the U.S. media outlet Current TV, were arrested in March after accidentally crossing into the North while working on a story.
They were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor, but were freed as part of a diplomatic mission led by former U.S.President Bill Clinton in August.
Netherlands-based Open Doors International, a respected rights group investigating reports of persecution of Christians, has told BosNewsLife in recent years that as many as over one million people may be held in “concentration camps”, which include several punishment camps for political prisoners and dozens of forced labor camps.
“It’s possible that the number of prisoners are well over one million,” said the Open Doors’ North Korea director who identified himself only as ‘Brother Simon’ amid security concerns. “Many camps are so huge that they can’t be spotted on satellite images,” he explained at the time.
“The camps are complete villages.” Despite the pressure, there are hundreds of thousands of Christians in North Korea, according to Open Doors estimates.
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