You know how news stories move from one juicy item to the other, like kids in a candy store, each being overshadowed and replaced by the next? I’m reluctant to do that on this blog. Let’s face it, I’m not a news service anyway, and I’m not bound to talk about much other than turnaround theory. For me, there is a certain fascination here. Aijalon Mahli Gomes and Robert Park are two young men who were inspired to risk their lives for a cause. They didn’t just talk about doing something; they did it. Right or wrong, smart or not–their actions are not mine to judge–these two guys walked straight into the bowels of what may be the most austere and uncertain place on the planet: North Korea.
When Robert Park was released, there was an expectation that he would speak out about his ordeal. It is going on two months, though, since he was granted freedom, and the world has yet to hear his end of the story. A recent article in “Christianity Today” had this to say:
Attempts to reach Park at his parents’ home in Encinitas, California, were unsuccessful. Park’s father, Pyong, said his son would issue a statement in the weeks following his release, but no statement was made and press conferences were canceled.
In March, Tuscon’s KOLD reported that Park had been receiving psychiatric care at a hospital. According to the website Free Robert Park, Park had a March 5 competency hearing in Los Angeles and a judge allowed Park to be released from the hospital.
The Korean-American evangelical community has hesitated to comment on Park.
There was a prior report that Park would be “on hunger strike at the nearest place to the White House in Washington, DC, beginning sunrise on March 25th”, but there has been no confirmation of that claim. Robert Park’s story remains, in large part, a mystery.
As for Aijalon Gomes, who entered North Korea on January 25th of this year, the outcome is even more uncertain. There has been nothing, that I have seen, in the major media since March 22nd, when “Times Online” (U.K.) had this to say.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported in a brief dispatch that Aijalon Mahli Gomes, from Boston, had been charged “because his crime has been confirmed”. He appears to be the unnamed American man who was reported to have been arrested for entering illegally on January 25.
The US State Department confirmed last week that a diplomat from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which represents US interests in North Korea in the absence of diplomatic relations, had visited an American prisoner. The question now is whether North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Il, will hastily expel Mr Gomes or whether he will try to use him as a political pawn in his fraught dealings with the US.
RoadTurn, then, is going to fast on this saga. I don’t mean a food fast (although, I will be doing some of that as well), I mean a topic fast: I’m going to stick with this saga until something gives. I’ll remain in prayer for Aijalon and Robert, and I will continue to share any news that I come across concerning them. But I’m not moving on to another topic until I am satisfied that their stories have been sufficiently told.
Is the North Korean assertion true–that these men were misled by Western hype and prejudice? Are they wide-eyed evangelists whose enthusiasm got them into waters deeper than their faith could endure? Or is there more to this than any of us have imagined?
Do your part to keep their memories alive. Twitter about them. Write about them. Call your elected officials. But join me in refusing to stop caring about the truth. May God bless and keep Aijalon Gomes and Robert Park. May God bless and keep you and me.