Tuesday, December 07, 2010

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".

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.
I can't fault him for much of that.

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At 8:30 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Does he have much of a following?

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

He has some defenders, but he seems to be more of a loner than a leader.

Not that he's isolated. He has the evangelical community as emotional support, but many of them think that he showed poor judgment in crossing over into North Korea and might even have made things worse for Christians there . . . though conditions there could hardly be worse.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:49 PM, Anonymous lorenzo said...

sexual torture.. hmm, I've never been so lucky..

At 3:24 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Lucky you, never to have been so lucky. But just cross that line, you'll be out of luck . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know Robert Park, came into contact with him through an unrelated issue. He is highly intelligent, very kind and caring, deeply spiritual, deeply wounded. He cares so much about people who suffer at the hands of powerful bullies, and he recognizes the hypocrisy of world leaders who enable, excuse, and even incite political violence against vulnerable innocent people. There's little use in pointing fingers and criticizing his illness (he was tortured and has severe PTSD), ...if you are at the same time ignoring warmongering, truth-denying, torture, human rights abuses, etc, of your own elected leaders. If you are English, American, Chinese, South Korean, among others ... you should be looking very closely at the behavior of YOUR government and asking why they (and YOU) have become part of this century of torture and genocide either by ignoring it (North Korea, Turkey, Rwanda, etc), or directly supporting it (as the US has done throughout the Americas. Maybe we should all be smashing something ... or better, helping someone.

At 7:56 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, thanks for the comment on this old post.

I can't see that Mr. Park's entry into North Korea changed anything for the better. It only made things worse for him.

Jeffery Hodges

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