August 9, 2005


Christian Groups Press Bush About North Korea (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 8/09/05, NY Times)

Tens of thousands of fans of all ages gathered over the weekend for the annual three-day Rock the Desert Christian music festival screamed for hit bands like Mercy Me and Pillar and kicked Hacky Sacks by a creek renamed the Jordan River and a small pond called the Dead Sea.

Between the Prayer Tent and an abstinence-promotion booth, however, worshipful revelers also stumbled into a more sobering pavilion, the North Korea Genocide Exhibit.

Inside, Kang Chol Hwan, a North Korean defector recently summoned to meet President Bush, signed copies of his memoir of 10 years in a prison camp. Drawings by defectors depicted the torture of North Korean Christians. A video, available free on DVD, showed shaky, grainy footage of two public executions.

In another exhibition, based on a defector's account of a deadly medical experiment, a bloody mannequin and baby doll leaned against the walls of a mock gas chamber made from a shower stall that at one point was filled with sulfurous yellow gas.

The displays were part of a growing movement by conservative Christian groups to press the White House on human rights in North Korea, much the way they drew attention to the civil war in Sudan and kept pressure on Mr. Bush after his first days in office.

Many of the speakers and exhibitions will travel to churches, campuses and events in the United States and Europe.

"God has picked us to be their voice," Deborah Fikes, executive director of the Midland Ministerial Alliance and the main organizer of the Korean display, told a cluster of children gawking at the gas chamber figures. "Christ commands us to be their voice."

Last month, Ms. Fikes joined dozens of other people from the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Convention and groups like the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism for a meeting in Washington, where they signed a declaration of principles that laid out their goals.

Their aim is to goad the administration to block trade or unrestricted aid to North Korea until it opens its borders and begins to reform human rights, no matter how much that demand might complicate the talks to stop Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program or irk China or American allies like South Korea that favor a less confrontational approach. [...]

The daughter of a Korean-American missionary, the Rev. Phillip Jun Buck, said her father had been arrested in China for trying to help North Koreans. "I know that president Bush and his community cares for cases like my father," she said.

Later, the festival screened part of a documentary, "Seoul Train," about North Korean refugees. The protagonist, the Rev. Chun Ki Won, told the audience through a translator a secondhand account of a North Korean Christian whose fingers were cut off by authorities demanding the names of other believers.

It was such accounts of persecution - though in southern Sudan - that first moved the Midland Alliance, once a strictly local group, to take an interest in foreign affairs. Ms. Fikes invited a group of refugees to address the 2002 Rock the Desert festival, where they worked with a Christian group for troubled teenagers to build a copy of a Sudanese village. They burned part of it in a mock raid to demonstrate the refugees' plight.

Soon after, Ms. Fikes, a former schoolteacher, decided to advertise on the alliance letterhead that Midland was Mr. Bush's hometown. She learned that foreign embassies were suddenly quick to respond.

Before long, she was traveling monthly to Washington and entertaining the Sudanese ambassador at her house. In the months leading up to the January peace agreement that ended the civil war there, Ms. Fikes and her group held private talks with both sides.

Her husband, an oil entrepreneur, pays for her travel.

"The Midland Alliance has had a major impact in the Sudan," Gen. Lazaro Sumbeiywo, a Kenyan who helped mediate the peace, wrote last week in an e-mail message.

"I believe the saying that 'the closer to the bone, the sweeter the meat' is quite effective," General Sumbeiywo said. "It has therefore made a major difference - a positive one - to have their letterhead identified as the home of President Bush."

You can't read the memoir and not think we should change the regime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 9, 2005 2:02 PM

The headline on Amnesty International's main web page is Stop Torture and Ill-treatment in the "War on Terror".

Eight other countries are listed in sidebar articles. No mention of North Korea or Cuba.

Posted by: Gideon at August 9, 2005 2:32 PM

Funny, I can't help but think about regime change when I think about all of the violent US military interventions of the past 50 years.

Posted by: at August 9, 2005 3:32 PM

The violence in Sudan hasn't stopped; it is still being supported by the oil companies and other entrepreneurs.

Posted by: at August 9, 2005 3:39 PM

Not stopped, but the South is on its path to independence and we forced an end to the genocide in Darfur.

Posted by: oj at August 9, 2005 3:44 PM

Those companies like stability, see your arguments for wny we support the Sa'uds.

Posted by: oj at August 9, 2005 3:45 PM

If you're gonna troll the Brothers Judd site, you'll have to do better than that. "lonbud" is at least three or four times more provocational (is that a word?) than you, he's manly enough to sign his name to his comments and give an e-mail link, and he manages to pull it off with his "shift" key tied behind his back.

Posted by: Mike Morley at August 9, 2005 3:54 PM

I think it's Mecha Howard Zinn

Posted by: Governor Breck at August 9, 2005 4:22 PM

Mike, anonymous aka Posted by: may just be a trainee moonbat. It probably takes a bit of time for all normal brain function to be diverted toward the lunatic left's talking points.

I just asked after lonbud and bart on a previous post's comments. Does anyone know what happened to them. I miss bart and if truth be told, lonbud too.

Posted by: erp at August 9, 2005 4:27 PM

Anonymous would darken his drawers if he knew WHICH oil companies are poking around Sudan.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 9, 2005 8:23 PM