Friday, July 9, 2010

(UPDATED) North Korea says American prisoner Aijalon Mahli Gomes tried to commit suicide

The BBC quotes the KCNA:
"Driven by his strong guilty conscience, disappointment and despair at the US government that has not taken any measure for his freedom, he attempted to commit suicide," the North's KCNA news agency said.

"He is now given first-aid treatment at a hospital."
The New York Times is now also carrying the story. The announcement of Mr Gomes's hospitalization comes after news two weeks ago that North Korea was threatening that America's warlike rhetoric could mean a tougher penalty for this follower of Robert Park (there's a double meaning for you).

This turn of events is hardly surprising, though it is distressing. As foolish as I feel Mr Gomes was for doing what he's doing (and ditto Mr Park, his role model), I wish him no harm.

Robert Park himself is reportedly a suicidal person, though it's not clear if he was a troubled individual before he traipsed into the North and was captured or that came afterward. Ditto with Mr Gomes.

I finally found a picture of Mr Gomes that isn't of him at the demo. I like this one; it is, I believe, in a part of northern Seoul or the adjoining part of Kyŏnggi-do Province, along the Chungnang-ch'ŏn River. His warm smile certainly stands in stark contrast with the stern visage of someone protesting human rights abuses. I took it from here, a site that got it from here.

One thing is for sure, however, and that's that Mr Gomes has become a hot potato for the Pyongyang regime. Not only is he of no value as a bargaining chip if he's dead, but it could easily appear that his suicide may have been directly due to some bad acts by the regime, which would potentially hurt the image they're trying to cultivate on the international stage.

In the past I have surmised that Evan Hunziker, fished out of North Korea by Bill Richardson back in 1996, may have been released because his North Korean handlers recognized his suicidal tendencies (he actually killed himself not long afterward). [The eerie similarities now seen between Mr Gomes and Mr Hunziker are echoed in Bill Richardson's posthumous praise for the evangelizing Mr Hunziker in 1996: "Evan was a gentle young man who sought peace for all people."]

My prayers go out to him and his family, but can't we all recognize there is no good that comes from trips like Robert Park's or Mr Gomes's? (Which is not to say the same of Mr Son's).

UPDATE (August 24, 2010):
Jimmy Carter is reportedly headed for North Korea in a bid to release Mr Gomes.

UPDATE (August 27, 2010):
Mr Gomes has been released.

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3 comments:

  1. "but can't we all recognize there is no good that comes from trips like Robert Park's or Mr Gomes's?"

    You're forgetting about lucrative book deals and television appearances. (Disclaimer: I'm aware that the nature of Park and Gomes' border crossing were different from Ling & Lee's venturing into NK, but they still all have something in common in that they went there uninvited).

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  2. I don't know that Mr Park or Mr Gomes could get a book deal. Mr Park's time is past, and he would have to do something else to get himself in the spotlight again in order to capitalize on his past misadventure.

    Depending on the outcome, Mr Gomes and Mr Park could co-author a book, but I really don't think that's what they're about. I do believe Mr Park may have a messiah complex or a Moses complex, and the intangible capital he would "gain" from this is on the church-to-church travel circuit.

    Mr Gomes, however, may have more genuine motives, and I don't think he was seeking the spotlight or a pulpit.

    I'm not sure, though. Just a feeling.

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  3. I was actually being sarcastic. Just trying to indirectly criticize Ling and Lee's misadventures from last year and their two new shameless books. I'm sure Gomes and Park had better intentions. I'm not a religious person, but I give the benefit of the doubt when religious folk try to do some "good" and make change for the less fortunate (versus journalists who are seeking some prize and attention).

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