Has Robert Park Crossed a Line?
Remember Robert Park, the Korean-American evangelical who "crossed a frozen river border [from China] into North Korea on Christmas Eve last year with a message of 'love and forgiveness' for leader Kim Jong-il"? Remember his appearance from photos before he crossed over into the North?
Consider the photograph above, borrowed along with the "love and forgiveness" quote from Donald Kirk's article "American missionary allegedly held by North Korea. A 'gift' to Pyongyang?" (The Christian Science Monitor, December 29, 2009). Although published during his captivity, it dates from before that misstep of his, specifically, December 22, 2009, in Seoul, two days before he crossed over into North Korea from China.
He looks sedate enough, though one surely ought to have had doubts about his good judgment. I know that I did at the time that I saw the photo, just after he'd crossed over, and felt my doubts confirmed by his capitulation under the North's finely tuned pressure. After his release, he hinted at sexual torture -- or possibly sensual temptation (if not consensual relations), for he never specified what his North Korean captors did -- and he is said to have attempted suicide.
Well . . . he's back, and this time with less "love and forgiveness" for Kim Jong-il.
That's him below, in a photograph published last Friday, December 3, 2010, in Yahoo to accompany an article titled "US missionary smashes portrait of N.Korea leader Kim":
I realize that Yahoo probably has a vested interest in depicting Park as a holy-rolling maniac if not a frenzied madman -- since that's news that sells well -- but given that he reportedly tried to kill himself several months ago, I do wonder if this man is stable. He does look rather frenzied:
I hope that he's not thinking of crossing the line again . . . though he may have crossed a mental line some time since last December. You can view a slideshow (slides 10-14) of his actions in Seoul last Friday and reach your own conclusions. But perhaps he's more sane than many of the rest of us:
On Friday he knelt in prayer outside the [Chinese] embassy [in Seoul] and repeatedly shouted "Save North Koreans!", while holding up a placard reading "Stop the North Korean holocaust".I can't fault him for much of that.
After his prayer, he showed reporters pictures of North Korean refugees and cited the UN Declaration on Human Rights.
The missionary also held up portraits of Kim and a North Korean child and then smashed the framed picture of Kim against the embassy gate.
"International leaders should choose between these two. I choose this child," he said.