Missionary in US after release by N. Korea

Missionary Robert Park was held for 43 days in North Korea. Missionary Robert Park was held for 43 days in North Korea.
February 8, 2010

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LOS ANGELES - A Korean-American missionary who defiantly crossed a frozen river into North Korea intent on urging a change in its leadership has reunited with his overjoyed family, after 43 days in the communist nation’s custody.

Robert Park, 28, wept as he left the flight from Beijing on Saturday evening and met with his family, his brother Paul said.

The greeting took place in a private location but the family spoke to reporters briefly as they left the airport. A thin and pale Park, who flew from Pyongyang to Beijing after North Korea announced Friday that he would be freed, wouldn’t speak and kept his eyes downcast while Paul Park told reporters his brother is in good condition.

Robert Park, of Tucson , crossed the frozen Tumen River from China into North Korea on Dec. 25, carrying letters calling on leader Kim Jong Il to close the country’s notoriously brutal prison camps and step down from power. Those acts could have risked execution in the hard-line communist country.

The family didn’t know Robert Park had planned to cross into North Korea until about 14 hours before he did it, Paul Park said.

The family didn’t get a chance to ask him about a statement that North Korea attributed to him on Friday, he said.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted Park as saying he was ashamed of the “biased’’ view he once held of the country.