According to the Associated Press, North Korean border guards apparently detained an American missionary as soon as he walked into the communist nation in an effort to call attention to Pyongyang’s human rights abuses, an activist said. Robert Park, 28, slipped across the frozen Tumen River into the North from China on Christmas Day carrying a letter calling on North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to shut down the country’s political prison camps. There has been no word from him since. “I am an American citizen. I brought God’s love. God loves you and God bless you,” Park said in Korean as he crossed over near the northeastern city of Hoeryong. Park was holding a Bible in his right hand and a piece of paper printed with a hymn text in the other. North Korea’s criminal code punishes illegal entry with up to three years in prison, but the general view of analysts is that the North must see some political gain in keeping high-profile foreigners prisoner. North Korea holds some 154,000 political prisoners in six large camps across the country, according to South Korean government estimates. Pyongyang has long been regarded as having one of the world’s worst human rights records, but it denies the existence of prison camps. Other activists in South Korea said Park had become known over the last year in Seoul human rights circles for his religious fervor and passion for helping North Koreans. Not all analysts see a simple end to the drama. The Rev. Benson at Park’s church in Tucson said he is a shy but likable man who has worked with the poor in Mexico and is constantly helping people.

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