North Korea has released a Southern California Christian businessman after he had been held there since November and was reportedly facing charges of proselytizing in the communist nation, which is illegal.
Barbara Demick, writing in the Los Angeles Times (www.latimes.com) said that Jun Young-Su of Orange County, California, was released on “humanitarian grounds,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
“He arrived in Beijing early Saturday, the Associated Press said. Jun, also known as Eddie, is reportedly about 60 years old and a naturalized U.S. citizen. He was working legally in North Korea when he was detained.”
“The investigation proved that Jun committed a serious crime … which he frankly admitted himself,” the Korean news service said in a statement.
According to Demick, the government in Pyongyang did not say what the charges were against Jun, but news reports said he was accused of trying to spread Christianity.
|Jun Young-Su with Robert King, the U.S. envoy for North Korean human rights, after he was freed|
“Various Christian groups and individuals have been drawn to the communist nation to do charitable work, but at times they have gotten into legal trouble because of North Korea’s zero-tolerance policy on religion. Even carrying a Bible is a criminal offense in North Korea,” the reporter said.
“Several visiting U.S. delegates had pressed for Jun’s release, most recently Robert King, the U.S. envoy for North Korean human rights, who was touring the country this past week to assess its need for food assistance. King escorted Jun out of the country.
“Former President Carter also had called for Jun’s release during a recent visit to North Korea. In its statement, the Korean news agency had mentioned Carter’s appeal for Jun’s release as well as a similar plea by the Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham.
|Dan Wooding (right) pictured at the birthplace of Kim Il-sung with Michael Little, President and Chief Operating Officer of The Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc., during a reporting trip to North Korea in 1994|
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, meanwhile, wrapped up a visit to China in which he reportedly appealed to President Hu Jintao for economic and humanitarian assistance.
Note from Dan Wooding: Having been one of the few Christian journalists allowed to report from inside North Korea, I welcome the release of Jun Young-Su. I have seen at first-hand the repression that the citizens of North Korea have to endure in their daily lives and I urge Christians around the world to especially pray for the underground believers of this country. According to Open Doors’ Christian sources, they estimate the number of imprisoned Christians between 50 and 70 thousand. Most are imprisoned because of their faith in Christ, some for other reasons. Christians are considered political prisoners. Under normal circumstances, they will never be released.