Tucson Missionary Robert Park, and What Kim Jong-il and Uncle Sam Have in Common
The welcome news that Tucson missionary Robert Park has returned home after being imprisoned for six weeks by the North Korean government has been splattered across the Internet, and rightly so. The 28 year-old crossed over into North Korea from China on Christmas Day to draw attention to what he called the "genocide" via starvation by the North Korean government of its own people.
In a brave, and some would say Quixotic act, Park traversed a frozen river into North Korea with letters demanding that the country's communist dictator Kim Jong-il step down from power and close his nation's concentration camps. Park was arrested by North Korean authorities for entering the country illegally and held for 43 days. Park has yet to speak about his ordeal in captivity, so we don't yet know if he was tortured.
The North Koreans quoted Park making statements about "religious freedom" in that country, but these were likely made under duress.
I was struck by the mention in several reports that Park had done missionary and humanitarian work among the poor in Nogales, Sonora, so he is undoubtedly familiar with the plight of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. illegally, and those who are unceremoniously dumped back over the border by Wackenhut buses under contract with the federal government.
Every day, at the Evo A. Deconcini Federal Courthouse in Tucson, some 70 migrants are given mass trials where they plead guilty to counts of illegal entry into the U.S. If it's their first offense, they often get off with time served, however many days that's been. The second time around, federal magistrates usually hit the migrants with sentences of up to 60 days or more as part of plea deals.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.