America’s enemy list update

Hugo Chavez, the Marxist anti-American president of Venezuela, has died of cancer.   Meanwhile, nuclear-armed North Korea has said it will cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War, due to American sanctions and joint military exercises with South Korea.  And Secretary of State John Kerry rattled his  sabre at Iran, threatening military action if Iran acquires nuclear weapons and announcing that the U.S. will give non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels. [Read more...]

North Korea threatens to nuke America

Still-Communist North Korea says that it will not only continue to develop its nuclear weapons program, but it will also develop long-range rockets and target its nuclear missiles at the United States.  “Settling accounts with the US needs to be done with force, not with words,” the North Korean government says. [Read more...]

A bad year for dictators

The North Korean “dear leader” Kim Jong-Il is dead.  His son, twenty-something Kim Jong-Un, has been named his successor.  The military is running a missile-test, as if to warn the world to stay back.

2011:  A bad year for dictators.  Gaddafi overthrown and killed.  Mubarak thrown out.  Hassad and Putin facing unrest.  And now this.

What do you think will happen now?  Will North Korea take the chance to join with its prosperous relatives in the South, or keep the starvation and mass oppression of Communism going?

via Kim Jong-Il dies, North Korea rallies around son – Yahoo! News.

See also Mollie Hemingway’s account of the brutality of the Kim Jong-Il regime and how it especially targeted Christians.

Christmas tree as a “dangerous, rash act”

North Korea has backed off of its military threats, after shelling South Korean territory, but the South Koreans are still angry and defiant.  In addition to mobilizing their military, the South Koreans have resumed a practice that had been halted for seven years out of deference to the North’s sensibilities.  The South Koreans have allowed the lighting of a giant Christmas tree within sight of  communist territory.  The atheist regime is outraged.

As troops stood guard and a choir sang carols Tuesday, South Koreans lit a massive steel Christmas tree that overlooks the world’s most heavily armed border and is within sight of atheist North Korea.

The lighting of the tree after a seven-year hiatus marked a pointed return to a tradition condemned in Pyongyang as propaganda. The provocative ceremony – which needs government permission – was also a sign that President Lee Myung-bak’s administration is serious about countering the North’s aggression with measures of its own in the wake of an artillery attack that killed four South Koreans last month. . . .

Although the North has made some conciliatory gestures in recent days – indicating to a visiting U.S. governor that it might allow international inspections of its nuclear programs – Seoul appears unmoved.

Pyongyang has used a combination of aggression and reconciliation before to extract concessions from the international community, and the resurrection of the tree lighting at Aegibong is a signal that the South is ready to play hardball until it sees real change from the North. . . .

On Aegibong Peak, about a mile from the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula, marines toting rifles circled the Christmas tree as more than 100,000 twinkling lights blinked on. The brightly lit tree – topped with a cross – stood in stark relief to North Korea, where electricity is limited.

Choir members in white robes trimmed in blue and wearing red scarves and Santa Claus hats gathered beneath the steel structure draped with multicolored lights, illuminated stars and snowflakes. An audience of about 200 listened as they sang “Joy to the World” and other Christmas carols.

“I hope that Christ’s love and peace will spread to the North Korean people,” said Lee Young-hoon, a pastor of the Seoul church that organized the lighting ceremony. About 30 percent of South Koreans are Christian.

The 100-foot steel tree sits on a peak high enough for North Koreans in border towns to see it and well within reach of their country’s artillery. Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said an attack from North Korea was certainly possible but unlikely.

North Korea, officially atheist and with only a handful of sanctioned churches in Pyongyang with services for foreigners, warned that lighting the tree would constitute a “dangerous, rash act” with the potential to trigger a war.

As a precaution, dozens of armed troops took up position around the site during the lighting ceremony. Ambulances and fire trucks were parked nearby. Instructions placed on chairs at the ceremony advised participants to take cover in case of an attack.

“The danger of the enemy’s threat still exists,” the leaflet read, suggesting that participants hide behind concrete walls, crouch between chairs and move quickly to shelters in case of an attack.

The event took place uninterrupted.

via South Korean Christmas tree sign of new propaganda war | Tulsa World.

North Korea attacks South Korea

North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing two and wounding 19.  South Korea has mobilized its military and is threatening retaliation.

The massive artillery barrage launched by North Korea on Tuesday forced its southern neighbor into a state of emergency, with fighter jets put on high alert and the Seoul government threatening “stern retaliation.”

An estimated 1,700 civilian residents of the area shelled by North Korea escaped to bunkers, while South Korean President Lee Myung-bak convened an emergency meeting of security ministers. Television footage showed plumes of smoke rising from the island of Yeonpyeong, which lies near the disputed maritime border separating North and South Korea.

Officials said the North had fired an estimated 200 artillery shells onto Yeonpyeong, which lies in the Yellow Sea about 72 miles west of Seoul and seven miles off the North Korean mainland. Most of the shells landed on a military base, killing two South Korean marines, wounding at least 19 other people and setting more than 60 buildings ablaze.

The South returned fire with about 80 shells from its own howitzers.

In an official statement, government spokesman Hong Sang-pyo called the North’s action a “clear military provocation.” In the United States, a White House spokesman said President Obama was “outraged” by North Korea’s “provocative” action, adding that the nation stands by South Korea.

via North Korea fires artillery at South Korean island of Yeonpyeong.

North Korea will release Christian prisoner after suicide threats

Amidst the happy news that North Korea will release a Christian activist from prison, thanks in part to the intervention of former president Jimmy Carter, are some curious details. From Christianity Today:

From a hospital in Tucson, Arizona, former North Korean prisoner Robert Park prays for the release of his friend Aijalon Mahli Gomes.

On Christmas Eve, Park crossed into North Korea in hopes of drawing attention to the Communist nation’s human rights violations and persecution of Christians. Park was arrested and imprisoned in North Korea and released after six weeks.

Gomes, 31, an English teacher turned Christian activist who attended the same church as Park in Seoul, followed in Park’s footsteps, crossing into North Korea on January 25. In April, the North Korean government sentenced the Boston native to eight years in a hard labor camp and fined him $700,000.

Park, who has been hospitalized several times since his February release, has not spoken about his imprisonment.

“I didn’t want to cause anything to happen to Aijalon,” Park told ChristianityToday in an exclusive interview. “I want him to come out first.”

Amid carefully selected answers during the phone interview from the behavioral health center where he has been since making suicidal statements in July, Park prayed several times, not for himself, but for Gomes’s return home.

“Father, restore Aijalon to his loved ones in America,” Park prayed, his voice laced with urgency. “Show us great and mighty things through the deliverance of Aijalon Gomes.”

Park’s prayers may finally have been answered.

Former President Jimmy Carter arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday, according to the government-controlled Korean Central News Agency. North Korean officials agreed to release Gomes to Carter, 85. The two are expected to return to the United States by Friday. . . .

Park said his concern for Gomes and frustration over the lack of media coverage and response to his friend’s imprisonment have led him to speak out—and were the cause of his plans for a July 16 suicide demonstration.

Park said he was ready to end his life because nothing was being done, “but God stopped it through the intervention of a friend.”

“I was planning to kill myself with a suicide note to bring attention to Aijalon—I feel responsible for him being there,” Park said. “He is one of my best friends, and I prayed for my life to be taken and not his.”

Park said he feels a burden and responsibility for his friend’s release. He was told that Gomes was very emotional when attending several demonstrations for Park’s release.

“He wept and prayed fervently and intensely, but he did not say much—I don’t think he told his plan to anyone,” Park said. “I think he went in, in part, because he was my friend and he wanted to help me.” . . .

In July, the Korean Central News Agency reported Gomes had attempted suicide. Park said he also fears his friend would be treated as a political prisoner or become lost in the politics of the relations between the U.S. and North Korea.

Observers speculate that North Korea was using Gomes as bargaining leverage with the U.S. over its nuclear program.

The seeming acceptance of suicide by both of these Christians is startling.  Perhaps they are combining their Christian faith, which I don’t doubt for an instant, with the relative acceptance of suicide found in Asian cultures.  (Gomes, though, is an American.)   We certainly shouldn’t accept the old Roman Catholic teaching that suicide is an unforgiveable sin; and yet, I wonder if the attitude against suicide is shifting.

HT:  Sarah Pulliam Bailey


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