In Smuggled Letter, South Korean in Chinese Jail Reports Suffering


2004.02.02
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'I am suffering in prison not for doing evil but for doing good'

A South Korean man currently serving a five-year sentence in a Chinese prison for helping defectors from North Korea has smuggled a heart-rending letter to his family, cut painstakingly from the pages of a prison Bible, RFA's Korean service reports.

"Someone mailed me a letter from my husband," the man's wife, Bong-soon Kim, told RFA. "I think this person secretly received it from my husband in the prison... He cut out letters that he needed from the Bible and pasted them onto the paper one by one."

Kim said her husband, Young-hoon Choi, was arrested by Chinese police along with a photographer, Jae-hyun Seok, for helping North Korean defectors in the northern Chinese port city of Yantai, which lies on the Bohai Bay and Yellow Sea, across from the Korean Peninsula.

She said she had been allowed to visit Choi during his trial, when he looked unhealthy. "I think they took the glasses away to prevent accidents. He has very poor eyesight," she told reporter Won-hee Lee. "As you know, letters in the Bible are quite small. It is painful to think that he had to cut out every single letter and pasted them onto a paper without even glue to send his heart to us."

In the letter, Choi called on his family to band together to support each other in his absence. "As you know, I am suffering in prison not for doing evil but for doing good. So I hope that you will not be ashamed of your father for being in prison," he wrote.

"I am spending time every day thinking of you and your mother and serving God."

Kim said Choi had begun to get involved with the troubles of North Korean defectors during his frequent business trips to China. "I think during that time, he saw people in trouble and thought about ways to help them and started participating in helping them. I am hoping for an early release but I still haven't heard anything," she said.

She said repeated appeals to the South Korean government to work for Choi's early release had met with reassurances, but no result so far. "The government tells me not to worry, saying that it is continuously requesting China for an early release but no progress has been made. So as his family we are having a very hard time," Kim said.

She called on the South Korean government to work harder to secure Choi's release, adding that her two daughters, aged 16 and 11, were still unable to cope with their father's absence.

"I can't talk about their dad because they cry whenever I talk about him. I think my daughter's feelings toward her dad became more intense when the holiday season came around and the weather became cold... One day I came home from work and found out that she posted her writing on the Web site."

Choi's letter said: "I would like to tell my beloved wife that I love her truly and faithfully. I also want to say that I am sorry and grateful. To you, I am a sinner."

"Listen my children. During my absence, respect my beloved wife, your mother. And I hope that you, Sun-hee and Soo-jee, will love each other and make your mother happy every day by being earnest, diligent, and cheerful good daughters," the letter said.

Kim said Choi had recently been transferred to a prison in Yantai, along with Jae-hyun Seok. "I guess my husband and Mr. Jae-hyun Seok cross each other' path every now and then. And now he is allowed to use writing tools," she added.

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