>Eddie Jun Yong-su home “within a day or two”
>U.S. denies food for freedom talks
>Envoy King, Carter, Graham played role
By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
SEOUL/PYONGYANG (BosNewsLife)– North Korea has released an American who was detained since November last year and allegedly mistreated for activities linked to mission work and spreading Christianity in the hardline Communist nation.
Eddie Jun Yong-su left with a delegation from Washington led by United States envoy Robert King on a flight from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, to Beijing, China.
After arriving in Beijing, King said that Jun would be reunited with his family in the U.S. “within a day or two.”
Jun did not appear with King before reporters in Beijing. However dressed in a dark jacket, Jun was seen in good spirits, smiling with King as they boarded the plane in Pyongyang, according to television footage.
After Beijing, Jun flew to Seoul where he told reporters he would have a medical checkup, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.
ORANGE COUNTY CHURCH
Jun, 60, is an agricultural machinery salesman who attends a church in California’s Orange County and makes frequent trips to the North.
His family pleaded last month for his release, saying he was in uncertain health following several months’ detention and may not survive a trial.
Former US president, Jimmy Carter, and Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, also both raised his case with officials, during recent visits to North Korea.
Jun was arrested in November, with the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, saying he was accused of committing “a serious crime”.
Pyongyang later said Jun was “released on humanitarian grounds” after he “expressed regret at the incident on behalf of the U.S. government and assured that it would make all its efforts to prevent the recurrence of [a] similar incident.”
North Korea didn’t provide more details, but friends and South Korean press reports said Jun was accused of spreading Christianity.
Earlier an acquaintance claimed that Jun was severely beaten as part of investigations into underground Christian churches in North Korea.
Jun, an ethnic Korean US citizen, had been allegedly engaged in “aggressive” missionary activities in the communist state, said Lim Chang-Ho, a professor at a South Korean theological college.
Lim said Jun and two ethnic Koreans with Chinese passports were arrested at the same time last November. “The two others were badly beaten but they were allowed to return home as they were Chinese nationals,” Lim told French News Agency AFP.
“According to them, Jun was beaten up so severely that he could hardly walk without help,” he added.
Envoy King denied the U.S. had promised aid in exchange for Jun’s release. “We did not negotiate or agree to any provision of food assistance,” King told reporters.
King traveled to Pyongyang this week with specialists to assess the severity of the latest of North Korea’s chronic food shortages.
The U.N. World Food Program made a $200 million appeal last month, saying more than 6 million of North Korea’s 23 million people urgently needed food aid.
Some critics question if the need is that dire and whether the North would distribute outside aid fairly.
However American evangelist Franklin Graham who visited North Korea this month said the country needs urgent food aid by June. Graham said his aid organization Samiritan’s Purse visited 17 counties, including orphanages and is concerned about the situation.
“Back in the 1990s we saw over a million people dying of famine. This is as critical today as it was back in the 1990s. If we don’t do anything soon we will see possible hundreds of thousands of people perishing because of this famine,” said Graham.
He told Fox News television that “It would be tragic if the United States government would use food as a weapon. There is a lot of politics involved in it. I don’t want to go into the politics, but as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ I believe the Bible teaches to do good to all mankind.”
Graham said it was his impression that North Korea will see a new regime. “This is a great opportunity for the United States to step up and encourage the new regime that is coming. ”