Robert Park (activist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Robert Park
Robert Park Photo.jpg
Born 1981 (age 36–37)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.[1]
Occupation Missionary, human rights activist, peace advocate, pro-unification columnist
Country  North Korea
Detained December 25, 2009
Released February 6, 2010
Days in detention 43
Reason for detention Illegally entering North Korea[2]

Robert Park (born 1981)[3] is a Korean-American missionary,[4][5] musician,[6][7][8] and human rights activist.[9] A peace advocate[10][11] and supporter of Korean reunification,[11][12][13][14] he is a founding member of the nonpartisan Worldwide Coalition to Stop Genocide in North Korea[15] and a frequent columnist for South Korea's largest English newspaper, The Korea Herald.[10][16][17][18] In December 2009 he was detained in North Korea for illegal entry after crossing the Sino-Korean border on Christmas Day[19][20] to protest against the country's human rights situation.[15] He was released in February 2010 after being detained for 43 days.[21] He reported having suffered torture during his detention.[22]

Early life[edit]

Park was born in Los Angeles, California.[1] His Korean name is Park Dong-hoon (박동훈),[23] and his grandparents were prominent Christians in North Korea before Korea's division.[24] He spent much of his early life in California, Mexico and Arizona, where in 2007 he was ordained as a missionary by a non-denominational Church. Prior to his involvement with North Korea-related work, Park was active as a missionary in Sonora, Mexico, where he had assisted in the organization and delivery of humanitarian relief over several years.[25][26]

A 2014 book published by a South Korean think tank indicates Park took vows of poverty and celibacy as a young adult and lived the life of a secular monk. He came close to committing his life to a monastery, being influenced by the charitable deeds and writings of nuns and ascetics. However, deeming service to the disadvantaged while remaining within the world more effectual, he opted for following much of the discipline of monastic life while steering clear of oftentimes divisive religious organizations. He read and was influenced by Simone Weil and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.[24]

Detention in North Korea[edit]

Since 2008 Park has been involved with humanitarian work in support of North Korean refugees. He had become intimate friends with numerous North Korean defectors and was actively protesting North Korea's human rights violations within South Korea. He had organized numerous human rights demonstrations and conducted a hunger strike in autumn of 2009. On December 25, 2009, he crossed the Chinese border into North Korea by walking across a frozen stretch of the Tumen River.[2] He was quickly apprehended by North Korean border guards for illegal entry.[27] In a media interview conducted prior to his journey and published after his arrest, Park said he believed it was his duty as a Christian to do whatever he could to protest against human rights violations in the country,[28] and that he was entering North Korea to call forcefully for the release of political prisoners, who he has argued through numerous articles are victims of genocide and crimes against humanity as defined under international law.[29]

While under arrest, Park made a public confession and apology for his actions. On February 5, 2010 the North Korean government announced that it had pardoned Park. He was deported by plane to Beijing, China, from where he was then flown back to the United States.[30][21] He later recanted his confession as having been made under duress, and reported having suffered torture and beatings during his detention.[22] He was hospitalized for PTSD on multiple occasions following his detention, sometimes spanning a number of months.[31]


As a victim of North Korean torture,[22][32][33][34][35][36] Park is preparing to file a lawsuit in the U.S. Federal Court under the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1991.[15][36]

His writings on the North Korean human rights situation have been published in the Harvard International Review, The Washington Post, Haaretz, San Jose Mercury News, Asia Times, South China Morning Post, National Post, The Diplomat, World Policy, Columbia Journal of International Affairs, The Hill, The Korea Times, and numerous other publications.[10][11][18][15][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46] He is a contributor to World Affairs Journal[47] and a regular columnist for The Korea Herald.[10][11][48][49]

On December 19, 2011, Genocide Watch, an international NGO and human rights watchdog, published a report which quoted heavily from a 2011 article penned by Park for the Asia Times, entitled "North Korea and the Genocide Convention." The paper concluded North Korea was actively committing genocide as defined by the UN Genocide Convention.[50][51] Park has repeatedly called for concerned persons and organizations to increase financial support towards North Korean defectors, who are able to remit money back to their families in the North, potentially making possible an organized movement to halt atrocities.[52][53][54][55][56]

An 80-page report produced by independent international law firm Hogan Lovells on 18 June 2014 determined there was "a strong case that certain actions committed by the North Korean government are tantamount to genocide." The report's findings differ in that particular respect from the conclusions of an earlier United Nations Commission of Inquiry. "We consider that there may be good arguments that the targeting by DPRK state-controlled officials of groups classified by the DPRK as being in the hostile class, Christians, and children of Chinese heritage with the intent to destroy such groups could be found to amount to genocide," the Hogan Lovells report states.[57]

Park is firmly anti-war[10][11][12] and advocates consistently for support and outreach to the North Korean people, whom he regards as victims of the forcibly installed Kim family dynasty.[58][59][60] His closest friends are reportedly North Korean refugees.[61]


Post-detention and release, Park began to compose music and poems to cope with trauma as well as continue to address human right issues.[62][63][64] Concerning his song, "Indifference," recorded and released via music video in demo form, The Big Takeover site highlighted the track as "an enraged and sagacious masterpiece" and Park's songwriting in general as "heart-rending, relevant and timeless." [65]

Blurt indicated the name of his music project as Malheur V.O.L., Malheur being the French word for "affliction" and V.O.L. being an acronym for "La Violencia del Amor," the title of a work by Oscar Romero. The project moniker is also directly inspired by Simone Weil's 1942 essay "L'amour de Dieu et le malheur."[66]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "North Korea Apparently Detains U.S. Missionary, Activist Says". Fox News. 28 December 2009. Archived from the original on 17 July 2017. 
  2. ^ a b Beaumont, Peter (26 December 2009). "US human rights activist crosses Chinese border into North Korea". The Guardian. 
  3. ^ 로버트 박의 목소리 [The Voice of Robert Park]. South Korea: Sage Korea. 2014. ISBN 9788996535836. 
  4. ^ Herskovitz, Jon (29 December 2009). "North Korea says U.S. man arrested for illegal entry". Reuters. 
  5. ^ Teresa Jun. "Tucsonans hold prayer vigil for missionary detained in North Korea", KOLD, December 30, 2009.
  6. ^ Blurt Staff. "Anti-genocide Activist Robert Park Releases Debut Music Video", Blurt Magazine, July 8, 2013.
  7. ^ "Video Premiere: "I am but a Child" by Malheur VOL". Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  8. ^ "Video Premiere: "In Love/Ascent" by Malheur VOL". Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  9. ^ World Affairs. "Robert Park", World Affairs Journal, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d e Herald, The Korea (2017-10-11). "[Robert Park] Former American prisoner of North Korea pleads for peace". Retrieved 2018-03-02. 
  11. ^ a b c d e "Instead of war, offer North Korea an amnesty in exchange for Kim - The Nation". The Nation. Retrieved 2017-09-13. 
  12. ^ a b "A Path to Free North Korea's Political Prisoners «  CSS Blog Network". Retrieved 2017-09-13. 
  13. ^ "A Path to Free North Korea's Political Prisoners | World Policy Institute". Retrieved 2017-09-13. 
  14. ^ Herald, The Korea (2017-06-22). "[Robert Park] A path to free NK political prisoners". Retrieved 2017-09-13. 
  15. ^ a b c d Carnegie Council. "Robert Park", Carnegie Council: The Voice for Ethics in International Affairs, February 15, 2012.
  16. ^ 로버트 박의 목소리. Sage Korea. 2014. pp. 69–82. ISBN 9788996535836. 
  17. ^ Herald, The Korea (2016-09-19). "[Robert Park] Unification of Koreas solution to North Korea's nuclear threat". Retrieved 2017-09-08. 
  18. ^ a b Herald, The Korea (2017-05-30). "[Robert Park] Kim dynasty: "Nazi-like" fascism that imperialism begot". Retrieved 2018-03-02. 
  19. ^ Herskovitz, Jon (30 December 2009). "Interview with North Korea border crosser Robert Park". Reuters. 
  20. ^ "The True Meaning Of Martyrdom". Forbes. Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  21. ^ a b Gabbatt, Adam (7 February 2010). "US human rights campaigner freed by North Korea returns home". The Guardian. 
  22. ^ a b c Mcdonald, Mark (2010-10-27). "N. Korea Prison Torture Described". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  23. ^ "Missionary a 'Prayer Warrior'". Radio Free Asia. 26 December 2009. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. 
  24. ^ a b 로버트박의 목소리. South Korea: Sage Korea. 2014. pp. 70–74. ISBN 9788996535836. 
  25. ^ Love Responds."The Real Truth concerning Minister Robert Park",, April 15, 2014.
  26. ^ Anna, Cahn. "Quest to end North Korean genocide evokes parallels to the Holocaust", Arizona Jewish Post, October 14, 2011.
  27. ^ Kim, Hyung-jin (27 October 2010). "U.S. missionary says North Korea jailers tortured him". Deseret News. 
  28. ^ Herskovitz, Jon (30 September 2009). "Interview with North Korea border crosser Robert Park". Global News Journal. Reuters. 
  29. ^ 로버트박의 목소리. South Korea: Sage Korea. 2014. pp. 38–48. ISBN 9788996535836. 
  30. ^ "American Missionary Freed by North Korea". The New York Times. 5 February 2010. 
  31. ^ 로버트박의 목소리. Sage Korea. 2014. p. 46. ISBN 9788996535836. 
  32. ^ "US Christian activist Robert Park on N Korea imprisonment - BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  33. ^ American Recalls North Korea Torture, retrieved 2015-06-02 
  34. ^ "US missionary says NKorea jailers tortured him". Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  35. ^ "Asia Times Online :: North Korean ordeal haunts US activist". Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  36. ^ a b "North Korea: Witness to Transformation | Robert Park and Genocide and Torture II". Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  37. ^ Robert Park."North Korea and the Genocide Movement", Harvard International Review, September 27, 2011.
  38. ^ Robert Park."When will we stop the genocide in North Korea?", Washington Post, April 21, 2011.
  39. ^ Robert Park."Battling a system of starvation", Haaretz, December 9, 2011.
  40. ^ Robert Park."Robert Park: North Korean refugees face slaughter when China repatriates them", San Jose Mercury News, February 28, 2012.
  41. ^ Robert Park."North Korea and the Genocide Convention", Asia Times, September 9, 2011.
  42. ^ Robert Park."The case for genocide in North Korea", Korea Herald, February 8, 2012.
  43. ^ Park, Robert (27 December 2011). "South Korea must act to save the lives of refugees from the North". National Post. Archived from the original on 9 September 2017. 
  44. ^ Robert Park."US silence on North Korea", Korea Times, November 14, 2012.
  45. ^ "Responsibility to Protect in North Korea". Archived from the original on 2015-05-02. Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  46. ^ "North Korea: The World's Principal Violator of the "Responsibility to Protect" - JIA SIPA". Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  47. ^ World Affairs. "Robert Park", "World Affairs Journal", 2013.
  48. ^ Herald, The Korea (2017-05-15). "[Robert Park] Viable and principled alternative to war". Retrieved 2017-09-12. 
  49. ^ Herald, The Korea (2017-04-28). "[Robert Park] Refuse fratricidal war". Retrieved 2017-09-12. 
  50. ^ Hye-Won, Kim. "GENOCIDE and POLITICIDE ALERT: NORTH KOREA", "Genocide Watch", December 19, 2011.
  51. ^ Robert, Park. "North Korea and the Genocide Convention", Asia Times, September 9, 2011.
  52. ^ Park, Robert (2011-03-29). "When will we stop the genocide in North Korea?". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  53. ^ "(Yonhap Interview) Robert Park calls for cash remittances to N. Koreans to topple regime | YONHAP NEWS". Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  54. ^ Herald, The. "Seoul should protect North Korea defectors in China by law: activist". Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  55. ^, 2015-04-17, retrieved 2015-06-02  External link in |title= (help)
  56. ^ "North Korea: Witness to Transformation | Yodok Update". Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  57. ^ "Independent Report Finds Evidence of Genocide in North Korea", Hogan Lovells, 18 June 2014
  58. ^ Herald, The Korea (2017-05-15). "[Robert Park] Viable and principled alternative to war". Retrieved 2017-09-08. 
  59. ^ Herald, The Korea (2017-01-08). "[Robert Park] Preventive strike: An atrocious proposition". Retrieved 2017-09-08. 
  60. ^ Herald, The Korea (2017-02-07). "[Robert Park] 'Peacefully' remove Kim Jong-un". Retrieved 2017-09-08. 
  61. ^ 로버트 박의 목소리. Sage Korea. 2014. pp. 75–79. ISBN 9788996535836. 
  62. ^ "Video: 'In Love/Ascent' from Malheur VOL", Blurt, 4 November 2013
  63. ^ "Video premiere: 'The Seal' by Malheur VOL", The Big Takeover, 7 August 2015
  64. ^ "Video Premiere: 'I am but a Child' by Malheur VOL", The Big Takeover, 6 January 2014
  65. ^ "Exclusive video premiere: Malheur VOL, 'Indifference'", The Big Takeover, 8 July 2013
  66. ^ "Anti-genocide Activist Robert Park Releases Debut Music Video", Blurt, 8 July 2013