Former President Carter secures release of Christian activist who entered N. Korea illegally
Former President Jimmy Carter successfully secured the release of Christian activist Aijalon Mahli Gomes from North Korea, and the two are heading back to the U.S. at press time.
The Carter Center, in a statement said, “At the request of President Carter, and for humanitarian purposes, Mr. Gomes was granted amnesty by the chairman of the National Defense Commission, Kim Jong-Il,” CNN said.
Although it is not clear why he entered North Korea illegally, Gomes, an English teacher in Seoul, joined rallies for the release of Robert Park, (see http://theundergroundsite.com/index.php/2010/08/carter-will-leave-for-n-korea-to-intercede-for-jailed-u-s-christian-13494) whom he met in an overnight prayer meeting at Every Nation Church of Korea, Christianity Today said.
Pastor Simon Suh stated that some church members are defectors from the North. It is possible that both Park and Gomes (who went to North Korea shortly after the former’s release) were moved by the passionate prayers of these defectors. Suh added that neither he nor the church encourage members to go to North Korea, Christianity Today said.
Park, who is now in Arizona, illegally entered North Korea on December 25, 2009 to draw attention to the human rights violations and persecution of Christians in North Korea. He was released by the Pyongyang after six weeks, Christianity Today said.
North Korea’s government-controlled media issued this “statement” from Park: “I trespassed on the border due to my wrong understandings of the DPRK caused by the false propaganda made by the West to tarnish its image. I would not have committed such a crime if I had known that the DPRK respects the rights of all people and guarantees their freedom and they enjoy a happy and stable life,” AolNews said.
Park said he had not spoken to media out of concern for Gomes. He had also been in and out of hospitals since his February release. He had planned a July 16 suicide demonstration to draw media attention to Gomes, “but God stopped it through the intervention of a friend,” Christianity Today said.
Politics Behind Humanitarian Mission
Carter, whose visit to North Korea was purely humanitarian, was greeted by Kim Gye Gwan, North Korea’s chief negotiator during the stalled, previous-held, six-party nuclear talks. While Carter was in North Korea, the envoys of both North and South Korea during the same nuclear talks, namely Wu Dawei (North Korea) and Wi Sung-lac (South Korea) met in Seoul, CNN said.
There is speculation regarding the health of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Il, 68, who had a stroke two years ago. Some believe that he may in due time announce that his son, Kim Jong Eun will succeed him, CNN said.
North Korea will hold its third Workers Party Congress next month, which some anticipate to herald a significant political development. The last time a Congress was held was in 1966 when North Korea started its cultural revolution, CNN said.
A source from South Korea’s presidential office said they had received reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il crossed the border into China by train last Wednesday at midnight. The source said, “We assume that Kim is aboard the train, and (we) are trying to find out his destination and the purpose of his visit,” CNN said.
The visit was not confirmed by North Korea and questions submitted to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the visit received no response. North Korea’s embassy in Beijing stated that they did not have any information regarding the visit, CNN said.
Some experts think the visit may be economically motivated due to sanctions on North Korea after several missile launches, nuclear tests and the recent sinking of a South Korean warship, CNN said.
It is not known whether Carter met with Kim. However, some speculate that Pyongyang and/or Beijing wish to resume denuclearization talks, which is why Carter was met by Kim Gye Gwan and is the reason for the meeting of the North and South Korean envoys in Seoul, CNN said.
China has been displeased by U.S. and South Korean naval exercises held in the eastern Pacific after the sinking of South Korea’s warship. China may want to resume nuclear talks to contain any escalation of the military exercises, and to prevent a strengthening of the current alliance of the U.S., Korea and Japan, CNN said.
South Korea on the other hand is bound to seek an apology for the sinking of their vessel Cheonan, and would want a clear indication that denuclearization commitments would be met should resumption of talks be proposed, CNN said.