Missionary to North now in hospital

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Missionary to North now in hospital

Robert Park, the Korean-American missionary who was held in North Korea for more than a month after illegal trespassing, is being held at a psychiatric hospital in California against his will, a U.S. online news site reported yesterday.

The Korean-language news article on Voice of America quoted Reverend John Benson as saying that Park had been hospitalized at a mental hospital in California since Feb. 27. Benson said Park was suffering from anxiety attacks after getting beaten by North Korean guards and that he was demanding his release from the hospital.

Benson also said the decision on Park’s future will be made next week, though the patient’s doctors and parents would like him to stay there for another month.

Park walked into North Korea on Christmas Day last year, carrying messages to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to step down and shut down concentration camps holding political prisoners. The North released him in early February.

Benson said Park has trouble speaking as he deals with post-traumatic stress disorder and hasn’t been able to explain in detail what he’d gone through in North Korea.

On Wednesday, a blog named “Free Robert Park” said Park had been hospitalized.

“He was drugged and taken by force into the mental hospital and has been classified Gravely Disabled, ‘unable to provide for your own food, clothing, and shelter,’” the entry read.

By yesterday, the story had been removed at the request of Park’s family but the blog claimed its story was true.

In an earlier entry, the blog introduced what it claimed was “the first direct e-mail” from Park.

“I have been tormented and I apologize for my insane behavior lately,” the message read. “I don’t call people easily because of my spiritual condition - I’ve had bouts of rage and intense temptations to kill myself (because of inner torture) since leaving DPRK [North Korea].”

By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]
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