February 08, 2010 08:03
An evangelical activist freed over the weekend by North Korea after illegally entering the hermit country arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Saturday afternoon. Robert Park (28) was freed 43 days after he crossed the frozen Duman (or Tumen) River from China on what he apparently believed was a divine mission to call for human rights improvements in the North.
Park was taken into custody after entering the North on Dec. 25 to urge North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to close down political concentration camps and guarantee freedom of religion.
Right before he and his family left the airport, his elder brother Paul Park said, "Hugging him, there didn't seem to be anything broken." Park, looking thin and pale, would not speak and kept his eyes downcast, AP reported. He burst into tears when he was reunited with his family, his brother said.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency said on Friday said the regime "decided to leniently forgive and release him, taking his admission and sincere repentance of his wrongdoings into consideration."
On Saturday morning, Park arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport by Air Koryo and was escorted by U.S. Embassy officials to a passenger plane bound for the U.S.
At Beijing airport, reporters asked Park if he had been interviewed by the official North Korean media under duress. KCNA had quoted him as saying he had been misled about the North by Western propaganda and now realized that North Korea "respects the rights of all people and guarantees their freedom."
But Park made no comment. Looking tired, he avoided journalists' eyes.
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