The Dear Reader: DPRK Observations & Musings


Prisoner of War

North Korea loves to bark out threats, upside-down history lessons and untenable orders via the megaphone-media-mouthpiece known as the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). It especially loves to do so on, or around, significant anniversary dates. The minions of KCNA most likely have a tattered, annotated Almanac to go along with those old 1960s Korean-English dictionaries that they seem to rely upon for their day-late missive translations.

And so it was that on Thursday, June 24th, on the cusp of the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War (June 25th), the Hermit Kingdom announced that because U.S. led efforts to rebuke the country over the Cheonan sinking “had gone over the tolerance limit,” it was contemplating treating American detainee Aijalon Mahli Gomes as a prisoner of war. As such, it has threatened to mete out “harsher punishment” beyond the eight years of hard labor and six-figure fines already handed out.

Gomes is caught up in a tragically real Korean Peninsula version of the 1959 Peter Sellers film The Mouse That Roared. A nation still technically at war with its neighbor to the south sporadically acts out far beyond the realm of a paper-thin armistice, but gets completely bent out of shape when that neighbor and its major ally decide to hold it accountable for its ongoing acts of war.

Last year, Laura Ling and Euna Lee were caught in the middle of this dance, played out to missile tests and an underground nuclear explosion. This spring, because of a disastrous currency re-denomination and a desire by North Korea to misdirect population anger around the idea that the March 26th naval attack is a western conspiracy, the tempo is much louder. Predictably, the U.S. quickly dismissed the June 24th KCNA communique, asking once again that Gomes be released on humanitarian grounds.

The case of Gomes has a potentially troublesome and heretofore unreported added dimension. A fellow writer who interviewed some of his teaching colleagues in South Korea says they conveyed the impression that “Gomes very likely fled the United States because of personal sexual orientation issues… It appears that he left the U.S. to get away from family conflicts he was having over these issues.”


Filed under: Aijalon Mahli Gomes, Movie Madness

9 Responses

  1. Don says:

    Please give your source of this information (Aijalon fled USA because of sexual orientation), beyond “a fellow writer.”

    It would also be helpful to know exactly what you are implying, concerning what this might have to do with his captivity by the DPRK.

    • Hi Don:

      The source is solid, but will remain anonymous here.

      The relevance is two-fold: one, Gomes might not have traveled to SK in the first place if not for these speculated contextual reasons; two, given the reports of sadistic sexual torture against prior U.S. detainee Robert Park, this is something that could potentially be exploited by his captors.

  2. Don says:

    Did your “fellow writer” write about this, or only pass the information on to you? If s/he did publish the allegations, where can the transcript be found?

  3. Don says:

    Okay, well I appreciate your investigative work.

    I find it not germane to the case, but a bit shocking nevertheless – primarily because Aijalon’s reason for caring about Koreans has heretofore been attributed to his Christian concern about sharing God’s love and the Gospel.

    I can see this quickly turning into whisperings of a love affair between Aijalon and Robert Park… Perhaps Hollywood will grab hold of the idea – the distraught lover defying North Korea to rescue his mate, not knowing that a release has been arranged… Now becoming imprisoned himself. It might certainly explain Robert Park’s bizarre behavior. Although, it is not the only possible explanation.

    For sure, it would serve the double aim of glamorizing homosexuality and slamming Christianity. Does your friend write screenplays, perchance?

    Personally, I’ll refrain from any further comment until proof is shown. If your fellow writer is wrong – or just trying to stir up talk – this is a rather damaging allegation, in a number of ways.

    • The separate strands – being a Christian, going to South Korea to teach English/do humanitarian work and going to South Korea to get away from domestic tensions – are not mutually exclusive. Nor does anything to do potentially with Gomes’ personal life denigrate his desire to help the oppressed.

      However, given the pedigree of the source of this information, and – yes – some of Robert Park’s behavior and case details, I thought it was worth mentioning.

  4. It doesn’t take one or two homosexuals to “slam” Christianity. We Christians do that well enough on our own, with our self-righteous hypocrisy. “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Matthew 7:1

    Far from being “glamorous”, being gay would add another dimension of horror to Aijalon’s captivity. If his demeanor, or his physical presence exposed any such vulnerability, his captors would certainly make the worst of it.

    Could this explain why Aijalon has no friends or relatives speaking out for him in his desperate hour of need…or even a church congregation to lend support? A little like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane — “Can you not watch one hour with me?” Matthew 26:40

    It’s one thing to express compassion for a misguided kook who crossed the border for unknown reasons, but quite another to defend a lovelorn homosexual, if that were the case.

    What is most disturbing in all of this, is the impending next step of succession, preparing Kim Jong Un to replace his ailing father. He is known to be the cruelest of the brothers, and might not hesitate to execute Gomes just to prove that he is not afraid of the U.S.

    We haven’t seen the last of this story and it looks to get uglier.

    • Hi Victoria:

      You make a very perceptive point re: lack of familial outcry for Gomes, as it is unlikely at this point – post trial & conviction – that there would be any diplomatic advantages to them staying quiet.

      Too bad Senator John Kerry has been unable to carry the torch beyond some brief comments in April when the Gomes sentence was handed down.

  5. It is a continuing mystery to me, how one precious life can mean so little, to so many. It is as if Aijalon never existed.

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