Saturday, May 1, 2010

North Korea allows Aijalon Mahli Gomes to contact his family?

I will address this more later, but fir now here's an update on Aijalon Mahli Gomes. Could this mean his release is not too far off? Pyongyang sure could use the brownie points.

From AP, via MSNBC:

SEOUL, South Korea — An American imprisoned in North Korea was allowed to speak to his family by telephone Friday, state media said in a report with few details and no clues whether he would be released.

North Korea's highest court sentenced Aijalon Mahli Gomes to eight years of hard labor and fined him $700,000 on April 6 for entering the country illegally and for an unspecified "hostile act."
Gomes, from Boston, was the fourth American detained by North Korea for illegal entry in less than a year. He had been teaching English in South Korea before being arrested in the North on Jan. 25.
The official Korean Central News Agency reported that Gomes spoke with family on Friday. The call was allowed after he asked "for a phone contact with his family for his health and other reasons," the report said.
The brief dispatch from North Korea's capital Pyongyang provided no further details on the call.
Thaleia Schlesinger, a spokeswoman in Boston for Gomes' family, was trying to confirm the North Korean report with family members.
Gomes' imprisonment comes amid increasing uncertainty on the Korean peninsula.
Tensions between North and South are running high amid a dispute over joint economic projects and the mysterious March sinking of a South Korean warship near their western sea border in which 46 southern sailors died.
Meanwhile, international negotiations aimed at getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons remain stalled. The United States is a participant in those talks.
KCNA also said Gomes had contact in prison with a Swedish Embassy official to whom he handed a "written petition." The report said that happened before the phone call but wasn't specific.
The U.S. and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations, and Sweden handles U.S. interests in the North.
"We have continuous contacts with the detained American citizen on behalf of the U.S.," Swedish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Camilla Akesson Lindblom said in Stockholm. "Right now we cannot get into any more details."
Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were held for five months before North Korea released them last August, and activist Robert Park was expelled some 40 days after crossing into North Korea last Christmas.
Gomes' motivation for entering North Korea remains unclear, though he attended rallies in Seoul in support of Park, a fellow Christian who deliberately crossed the North's border to call attention to the nation's human rights record, which has been criticized by the United Nations and U.S. as dismal.
Park was released in February without charge after the regime said he showed "sincere repentance of his wrong doings."
Ling and Lee, who work for former U.S. Vice President Al Gore's Current TV media venture, were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for illegal entry and engaging in "hostile acts" after their arrest in March 2009 near the Chinese border.
They were freed in August after former President Bill Clinton traveled to Pyongyang to negotiate their release. Clinton met North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during the visit.


  1. While reading this article, I was reminded of something I found on the CNN website.

    A while back (last year, I think), I found an interesting article (with a video) from a media company called 'Vice.'

    The videos show a quite interesting view of the Vice journalists' tour of North Korea.

    I also checked out some of their other stuff... but, let's say that their slogan, "The internet's greatest cavalcade of music, human misery, and t*ts" kinda shows what they're really about - a lot of oddities, nudity, horror films, and sex tourism.

    Still, the NK vids are pretty interesting. And it looks like there has been an update which CNN has posted on its site. Dated at April 28th, it seems that the videos have been revived because of the recent news of the sinking of the Cheonan.

  2. Thanks Schplook - watched Part 1 and it looks fantastic...


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