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September 25, 2007

Steve Kim Set Free

After four years of harsh imprisonment, China has released American human rights activist Steve Kim of Huntington, New York, who was arrested for the "crime" of offering food and shelter to starving North Korean refugees attempting to escape to South Korea.

As Suzanne Scholte, chairman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, writes:

In most civilized countries, a person of Kim's compassion and concern for his fellow man would have been lauded and praised and admired. This American businessman, who traveled frequently to China, saw people suffering and in great need, and because he was a Christian, he could not turn his back on them. Thus, working with the support of his home church, Good Neighbor Community Church on Long Island, he raised funds to provide food and shelter to North Korean refugees until they were healthy enough to travel to South Korea and then he helped them make their way to freedom....Steve Kim's compassionate actions in helping with the North Korean refugee crisis caused the government of China to hunt him down and jail him charging him with illegally transporting aliens as he was helping North Korean refugees to attempt to cross the border.

Scholte reminds us of others who were guilty of the same "crime:" Raoul Wallenburg and Harriet Tubman.

"To my knowledge, there is no humanitarian worker--American, South Korean, or Japanese--who has been arrested for this crime and served a longer sentence than Steve Kim," Scholte writes. "Fortunately, and perhaps because he was an American citizen, Steve Kim did not experience torture and abuse, but he did experience four years of imprisonment in harsh conditions" for aiding a greatly suffering people: North Koreans.

Somebody please explain to me: 1. How an American citizen can be imprisoned in China on trumped up charges (spying) for four years, and 2. Why we are holding the Olympic Games in a country that trashes the human rights, not only of desperate North Koreans, but of 1.3 billion of its own citizens.

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Comments

Brian

I have been asking myself the same question since the announcement.

Many blessings to Steve Kim!

Jerry

Where is our US government at as concerns this citizen's being arrested and put into prison??? Didn't our government give China "favored nation" status and we are now doing more trading with them than in previous years? What is wrong with the panel/committee of the Olympic Games?? Have they lost the ability to think and make good judgment anymore?

Matt

It probably has something to do with the massive amount of American economic interest in China. Which is really a good thing, isolation doesn't help improve terrible governments (see Cuba, North Korea, Iran, etc.) generally it just makes them worse.

When we start investing in these countries however, we also start exporting our culture, however flawed, but still highly laden with ideas about freedom. Which is generally good for slowly causing reforms in those countries.

Theron Keller

"2. Why we are holding the Olympic Games in a country that trashes the human rights, not only of desperate North Koreans, but of 1.3 billion of its own citizens."

1 Timothy 6:10: "For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil."

China has money. We want their money. That's pretty much it.

Raymond Takashi Swenson

Americans present in a foreign nation are fully subject to the local laws, no matter how harsh, unless their status is mitigated by international treaties. For US diplomatic personnel, the standard diplomatic rules are that people in diplomatic status are immune from all local law enforcement for crimes, including traffic tickets, kidnapping and murder, as well as civil liability, such as to victims of drunk driving.

For US military personnel, they lack immunity, but there are, in nations allied with the US, Status of Forces treaties that seek to ensure basic human rights for those arrested by local authorities, pays for local defense counsel, and provides them a channel of communication to US authorities as a safegaurd against abuse. If they commit crimes that do not directly injure local citizens, they can be tried by the US armed forces in courts-martial. Family members of military servicemen however are fuly subject to local laws, because the US Supreme Court ruled that US military courts (which follow the US Constitution and US rules of evidence and procedure) were "defective" and therefore the family members are left to the mercy of the local authorities. Even in a nation as modern as Japan, you can be held without charge for 21 days; you can be interrogated without defense counsel or even a translator; if you do not plead guilty, you can be held in jail until the conclusion of your trial. That may not sound so bad, but in Japan, which has no juries, the case is heard by panels of three judges. They schedule each trial in their calendar for one hour per month. So a trial that last 10 hours and would be over in two days in the US will take a full year in Japan, before you are even found guilty.

The attempt by President Clinton to intervene on behalf of a US teenager sentenced in Singapore to corporal punishment was unfair to the many US military personnel who are subject to the same laws but don't get the US president putting political pressure on Singapore authorities.

So the Chinese Peoples' Republic (the actual name in Chinese very much asserts that overseas Chinese are subjects of its authority) is within its legal rights in international law to arrest, try and imprison Mr. Kim. The fact that the Chinese law in general is unjust or that its particular application in a given case is unfair is not something that international law addresses, and the US State Department can do little to prevent such prosecutions. After all, the Underground Railroad was operated in defiance of the US Fugitive Slave Act, as upheld by the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott decision, which was the reason it terminated in Canada, not Boston or New York.

The awarding of the 2008 Olympics to China is not done by the US. Rather, that decision is made by an international committee, that is not answerable to any national government. At one point in time, the mechanism was simple bribery of the committee members, which was revealed at the time of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. Now it is a process subject to the usual international prejudices and influences. The most basic consideration for the International Olympic Committee is China's willingness to adequately finance the 2008 Games, including providing venues for the competitions. After all, the 1936 games were held in Nazi Germany. At those games, Jesse Owens won his gold medals in the face of Hitler's blatant racism. So the argument can be made that the Games will influence China in the long run much more than China will influence the world.

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