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Contact: Alex Coffin, 704-364-2049, ACoffin@InChristCommunications.com
WASHINGTON, July 12 /Standard Newswire/ -- Son Jong Hoon, who is visiting the United States from his home in South Korea, today pleaded with the world to pressure North Korea to release his elder brother awaiting public execution for the crime of simply being a Christian.
Photo: Son Jong Nam (R), with younger brother, Son Jong Hoon (L), April 2004, Yeongil, China.
For more than a year, Son Jong Nam, former North Korean Army officer turned underground evangelist, has been beaten, tortured and held in a bleak, North Korean death row basement jail in this capital city. He has been sentenced to public execution as an example to the North Korean people.
"My only purpose in life right now is to save my brother," the younger Son said. "I pray to God for my brother's safety."
Son Jong Hoon made his plea at a news conference at the National Press Club today. He was accompanied by representatives of The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) and staff members from the office of Sen. Sam Brownback (Rep.-Kan.).
VOM, an international organization that assists persecuted Christians around the world, launched a global campaign Tuesday, calling on people in the United States and other countries to write letters and send emails to North Korean, United Nations and U.S. State Department officials on Son Jong Nam's behalf.
VOM was been joined in the initiative by Brownback, a noted supporter of human rights for North Korean refugees. Brownback sent letters last week, also signed by Senators Baucus (D-Mont.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Vitter (R-La.) asking U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to work to secure the release of the Christian prisoner.
VOM is directing people go to its web site, www.prisoneralert.com, where they can compose a personal letter of support and encouragement to Son. The letter is to be mailed to the North Korean delegation to the United Nations, along with a cover letter asking the North Korean government to spare Son's life, release him from prison immediately, report on his current status and deliver the personal letter to Son.
"We are asking for prayers for Mr. Son, but also that people around the world take action on his behalf," said Todd Nettleton, director of media development for VOM. "Jesus said ministering to a prisoner was like ministering to Himself. Every letter and email can make a difference."
Some years ago the elder Son complained to the North Korean Central People's Committee when his pregnant wife, while being investigated by the secret police, was kicked in the stomach and miscarried. He made plans to leave North Korea after being pressured to drop the matter.
Son defected to China in 1998 with his wife, son and brother. His wife died after arriving there. It was in China that he met a South Korean missionary and became a Christian. Mr. Son continued his religious studies and felt called to be an evangelist in North Korea.
But before he could return home, Son was arrested by Chinese police in 2001 and sent back to North Korea, charged with sending missionaries into his native country. He was imprisoned and brutally tortured for three years.
Son was released on parole in May 2004 and expelled from Pyongyang to Chongjin to work at a rocket research institute. However, his health was so bad when he was released that he was unable to walk. But after receiving medical treatment, he went back to China to meet with his brother.
Son was arrested again when he returned to North Korea in January 2006, and has remained in prison since. The last word of him came in February. It is suspected that because he is being kept in the capitol city, North Korean officials view him as a special case and perhaps are keeping him alive, if barely, for unknown reasons.
VOM has been launching helium-filled balloons, printed with either the Gospel of Mark or the text of a tract called "How to Know God" into North Korea for years, said Nettleton. They also smuggle in copies of an audio drama called "He Lived Among Us" and have sent copies of The New Testament in Korean to northern China through a VOM program called "Bibles Unbound".
The Voice of the Martyrs, headquartered in Bartlesville, Okla., is a non-profit, interdenominational organization with a vision for aiding Christians around the world who are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ, fulfilling the "Great Commission" and educating the world about the ongoing persecution of Christians.