By Tien-Shun Lee
About 80 Koreans, including many Korean church leaders, gathered in the San Jeong Hyon Christian church in College Point Saturday to protest North Korea’s attempts to build a nuclear arsenal and the Kim Jung-Il regime as well as to show support for President Bush.
Korean leaders in Korea and New York City organized rallies to take place at noon on March 1, the date that marks the beginning of Korea’s independence movement against the Japanese occupation in 1919.
“To have this rally on this date is a very powerful symbol of that love for freedom, that courage for freedom,” said Samuel Son, the son of the Rev. Young Goo Son, head of the San Jeong Hyon church, at 26-25 123rd St. “We are near the loss of freedom. We need another March 1 type of rally to protect our freedom.”
According to the Chosun Ilbo, a Korean newspaper, hundreds of thousands of people attended a rally in front of Seoul’s City Hall Saturday, bearing blue balloons and anti-Kim Jong-Il signs.
Other smaller-scale street rallies were held within parks and other parts of downtown Seoul.
Amid escalating tensions with the United States, U.S. intelligence officials said last week North Korea had restarted a nuclear reactor which over time could provide a steady source of plutonium for nuclear weapons.
At the San Jeong Hyon church, songs were sung and passionate speeches were made in Korean during an hour-and-a-half-long indoor “church rally,” which was followed by a lunch of rice, fish and kimchi.
Toward the end of the rally, Samuel Son read a declaration for the “Reunification in Freedom,” which was written by leaders of organizations in South Korea and translated into English by Son.
“Through 50 years of sacrifice of sweat and blood, Korea has developed into a free, democratic nation,” Son read. “That freedom is now teetering at a precipice. The regime of Kim Jung-Il claims it is developing nuclear arms for national security, but its targets are the 70 million people of Korea. … We stand against nuclear armament of North Korea and the breaching of the Korean-American alliance.”
The declaration also accused Kim Jung-Il of allowing 3 million people in his country to starve to death and blamed his father, Kim Il-Sung, for 3 million deaths caused by the Korean War, which began on June 25, 1950.
“His father and himself are so uniquely tyrannous,” said Robert Kim, the leader of the Sun Jung Hyon Christian Korean church in the Bronx. “They don’t care about their people, even though they starve to death. But they are piling nuclear arms. That’s the matter that we South Koreans are angry about.”
A few years ago, Young Goo Son and other Korean leaders within the city organized a rally in front of the United Nations to support a petition to the international body to allow North Koreans who defected to China to receive refugee status so they would not have to return to North Korea. The petition has yet to be approved by the United Nations.
“Kim Jung-Il is in violation of international human rights. There are 30,000 defectors all hiding in the borders of China,” Kim said. “North Korea is persecuting their people for religion, for their political beliefs. It is not a free country.”
Young Goo Son urged the new South Korean president, Rho Moo-Hyun, who was elected in December, to respect the will of Korean citizens and the people of Korea around the world, as well as South Korea’s true allies in opposing Kim Jung-Il and his regime.
“We urge all citizens of the world, all freedom-loving people, to unite, regardless of religion, ethnicity, social class or age, and participate in our March 1 rally and prayer meeting, and confront the enemy of freedom,” Son said. “God is on our side and freedom will prevail.”
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by email at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.