Koreans Seek Regime Change

Times Staff Writer

With tearful prayers and thunderous singing of “The Battle Hymn of Republic” in Korean, 2,000 Korean pastors from throughout the United States and Canada met in Los Angeles this week to urge an end to the repressive regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.

Pastors, human rights advocates and defectors from North Korea also prayed for passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004. The U.S. Senate late Tuesday passed a slightly amended version of the legislation, approved by the House in July. The measure would compel the United States to, among other things, broaden talks over North Korea’s nuclear program to include discussions of human rights abuses. The bill will now return to the House for a final vote.

“We are your servants, Lord. Show us your miracle,” said Rev. Peter Sohn, senior pastor of Bethel Korean Church in Irvine, praying for a united and democratic Korea. Sohn organized the event by meeting Korean Christian leaders around North America over the last year.

The Korean Church Coalition for North Korea Freedom met Monday and Tuesday at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport hotel. A 350-member choir sang and the hardships of life in North Korea were depicted in mime, film clips and live testimony from defectors.


Though many Korean churches and pastors have worked individually to improve conditions in North Korea by sending food, money and medicine, this was the first widely coordinated effort on the part of Korean Christians in the United States and Canada to focus on the goal, said the Rev. Hee-Min Park, pastor emeritus of Young Nak Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, one of the largest Korean churches in the country.

In the keynote speech, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) called North Koreans “the most helpless people in the world today ... trapped in the most brutal system of government the world has ever seen.”

At the conclusion of Tuesday’s session, the coalition issued a declaration calling on the North Korean government to stop public executions, abolish concentration camps for political prisoners and reduce starvation. It also called on the United Nations to grant refugee status to North Koreans fleeing their homeland.