American Missionary Captured In North Korea Inspired By Biography (Investigation)

Sunday, December 27, 2009 | Tag Cloud

People watch Robert Park on South Korean television.

By Stefan J. Bos, Worthy News Chief International Correspondent

People watch story about Robert Park on South Korean television.SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (Worthy News)-- A young American missionary, who has reportedly been detained for illegally entering North Korea on Christmas Day, was inspired to go there by a biography about the "first Christian martyr" of present day North Korea, suggested an e-mail obtained by Worthy News and its partner agency BosNewsLife late Sunday, December 27.

Robert Park, 28, wrote in last week's e-mail that he was "amazed" by the book 'Chosen for Choson' on the life and violent death of another 19th century missionary, Robert Jermain Thomas, written by Stella Price.

"I want to thank you and [author] Mrs. Price for the amazing biography of missionary Thomas's life," he wrote to the author and her husband Dr. Stephen Price."I don't know if I had the chance to tell you, but I was very moved by it and not only I but also my dadhas had a chance to read the brilliant book and he to was very moved," Park wrote in the e-mail.

Born in Wales, Missionary Thomas travelled with Bibles on an American armed trading ship to Pyongyang,the present-day capital of North Korea. In 1866, the ship became stuck on a sandbank in a nearby riverand was attacked by Korean soldiers.


Thomas, 27, reportedly stood on the deck of the burning ship, opening his cases of Bibles and flungthe books to those who lined the banks of the river. Before he was beheaded, he apparently also gavea Bible to his executioner.

Several Koreans reportedly rescued Bibles and brought them home to be used as wallpaper.

Park suggests he was inspired by biography about Robert Jermain Thomas.

After readingthe texts on the walls of their homes, many became Christians, according to the biography. Fast forward, in the 21st century that event apparently made an impact on Park and his family."My Dad's family is from the north, and were Christians there before fleeing because of the persecutionand war," wrote Park.

Dr. Price, who founded medical mission group Emmaus Road Ministries (ERM), told BosNewsLife that he and his wife received the e-mail "a few days" before Park left for North Korea. The e-mail seen by Worthy News and BosNewsLife said December 19.

Activists confirmed Sunday, December 27, that the Korean-American, from Tucson, Arizona, had been detainedafter crossing the frozen Tumen River that borders China and North Korea. Shouting "I came here to proclaim God's love," the missionary carried a letter Friday, December 25, asking North Korean leader Kim Jong II to release those persecutedfor their faith and open the country for aid, witnesses said.


"Please open your borders so that we may bring food, provisions, medicine, necessities, and assistance to those who are struggling to survive," he wrote, according to a copy of the letterposted on a Web site of fellow activists. "Please close down all concentration camps and release all politicalprisoners today."

North Korea holds some 154,000 political prisoners in six large camps across the country, according South Korean government estimates. However many more people, including Christians, are held in campsacross the country, said well-informed Christian rights group Open Doors believes.

North Korea has denied the existence of these camps. Analysts said Park's illegal entry could complicate Washington's efforts to get North Korea back to the six-partytalks on nuclear disarmament.

Park's crossing also comes just months after the country freed two U.S. journalists,who were arrested and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for trespassing and "hostile acts." They were released to former President Bill Clinton on a visit to the isolated country in August.


Some have criticized Park's decision to enter into North Korea as "reckless". "I just feel that this was a reckless andmisguided adventure," said Tim Peters, founder and director of Helping Hands Korea, a Christian charity group supporting North Korean refugees, in published remarks.

He said Park had a deep and admirable commitment to prayer and the North Korean cause but was a "newcomer"to such activism and "out of his depth."

Will he listen to Park's plea? North Korean leader Jim Jong II.

However Dr. Price strongly disagrees. "I have known Robert for several years...He is a passionate young man...prayerful...not a publicity seeker," he told BosNewsLife.

"Robert is a friend who is passionate about his Christian faith and his lovefor the people of North Korea. His family are originally from North Korea. He is a leader in making others aware of thehardships suffered by many in North Korea."

Dr. Price said that it appears that Park "also wishes to challenge leader Kim Jong II to return to the Christian faith of hispaternal grand-mother and allow freedom for the many Christians who are held as prisoners because of their faith."

He stressed he too shares "Robert’s love for the people" of North Korea. "As a physician I have undertaken twobridge-building medical missions to Pyongyang."


The United States State Department said it is aware of Park's situation but declined to enter into details. Spokesman Andrew Laine reportedly added thatm "The U.S. government places the highest priority on the protection and welfareof American citizens."

North Korea did not yet make any known statements on the issue Sunday, December 27.

However Park told reporters before he left that he was willing to be a martyr for incarcerated North Koreans andthat he did not want the U.S. government to negotiate his release."I don’t want President Obama to come and pay to get me out. But I want the North Korean people to be free. Until theconcentration camps are liberated, I do not want to come out. If I have to die with them, I will."

He said he saw entering North Korea as his Christian duty. "[For] these innocent men, women and children, as Christians,we need to take the cross for them. The cross means that we sacrifice our lives for the redemption of others."

Christians often suffer as North Korea's Stalinist system is based on total devotion of the individual to anideology promoted by the late leader Kim II-sung and his successor and son, Kim Jong II, said observers who visited the country.

The ideology, known as Juche, largely resembles a religion or cult, and refugees' accounts say those who opposeit are dealt with severely, often ending up in prison camps. (This is an exclusive Worthy News and BosNewsLife investigation. Stay with us for the latest developments.) 

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8 thoughts on “American Missionary Captured In North Korea Inspired By Biography (Investigation)”

  1. Praying!

    "Sing unto the LORD, all the earth; shew forth from day to day his salvation.
    Declare his glory among the heathen; his marvellous works among all nations.
    For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods.
    For all the gods of the people are idols: but the LORD made the heavens." 1 Chronicles 16:23-26

    Save Now!

    "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call." Joel 2:32


    • I personally know robert and his passion for north Korea I recived a call about his actions on sat morining i asked our congeration to pray for him He is not afraid or ashamed of the gospel Keep him and the other christians in North korea in ptayer be richly blessed Martus pastor paul

      • Amen Beloved, Amen!


        "And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" Romans 10:15

        Save Now LORD, Save Now!

        "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." Matthew 11:5


  2. thought this would interest you.. i don't always agree with these kind of actions but with much prayer..who knows what will happen.. i had heard this story of Thomas but never read it. God's word alone converted people when they used the Bible as paper on the walls. amazing.. melanie

  3. Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for this young man's courage. Let this year be the year where your people who are called by your name, give us all courage like this young man. Bless and protect him. We praise You and Your Holy Son for him. May we all be inspired once again by the martyrs and saints. In Jesus' Holy Name. Amen

  4. If this man believes that it was God's will for him to do this, then he should obey. Who are we to judge what he did. I have prayed for him since I heard of the incident. I pray for the persecuted church as all American Christians should. Other countries are begging for the Word of God and American Christians will not even dust it off to read it. This man exhibits true Christianity!

  5. I hope Jim Jong II will show compassion, in this case, and let Robert Park go. Making Jim Jong II truly "The Great Leader."

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