Thursday, May 12, 2011

Eddie Jun stuck in North Korea but "well cared for"

Remember Eddie Jun, aka Youngsu Jun? His family sure does.

If you don't, here's a refresher: he's the Orange County kyopo who ended up getting arrested while in North Korea, for some crime he has confessed to but which has still not been specified to the rest of the world. Some had hoped that "The Elder" Jimmy Carter would be able to secure Mr Jun's release from the Pyongyang Palazzo, but President Peanut was snubbed.

Mr Jun remains in North Korea, but we get word that he is being treated okay and has even been allowed contact with his family:
The U.S. government says that an American detained by North Korea since November is being well cared for and has been permitted to speak to his family by phone.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday Swedish diplomats have visited Eddie Jun six times since March and were continuing at U.S. request to ask for regular consular access.

Sweden looks after U.S. interests in the communist state.

Toner called for Jun's immediate release on humanitarian grounds so he can be reunited with his family.
The literal message is that traipsing
into North Korea isn't very bright.
I'd really like to know what he was arrested for. Given his religious background, it could be anything from helping ferry North Koreans out of the DPRK and the PRC, to proselytizing and/or passing out religious materials, to helping spread discontent about the Pyongyang regime. And any of those could mean big trouble if he's convicted (which is likely).

Sure, the US eventually released Evan Hunziker, Robert Park, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, Laura Ling, and Euna Lee, but not until after a lot of hemming and hawing and perhaps some backroom quid pro quo (e.g., a favorite topic of Joshua at One Free Korea: not putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terror).

If this doesn't scream, "Stay the #+¢& away!" then I can't help you.

Well, despite my public proclamations about the foolishness of Americans publicly and purposefully going into North Korea without permission and the danger it puts on everyday North Koreans trying to escape or the way it ties the hands of Washington and its allies, I do hope and pray that Mr Jun is okay and continues to be okay. (And I add: we don't know yet why he was nabbed.)

If he's already staying at whatever villa is being used as the Pyongyang Palazzo and he's being seen by the Swedes and even allowed to call California, I'm not too terribly worried for Mr Jun's safety right now. Euna Lee and particularly Laura Ling were physically harmed during their ordeal, but this was almost entirely during their capture when they escaped back into Chinese territory. After they were in custody they were placed in a darkened room with no access to hot water, a form of torture DPRK citizens call "being in North Korea."

On the other hand, if he is actually convicted, things could be different. Though he would likely be released, the difference between Mr Jun and most of the others is that he is a full-blooded ethnic Korean and a male, and therefore with few mitigating excuses to release him.

So far only Robert Park fit that description, and I think the Pyongyang authorities quickly realized he was a nutjob and wanted to get rid of him. It helped things along that Robert Park cracked and told the KCNA everything they wanted to hear. People can be very magnanimous after a propaganda victory.

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