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American illegally enters N. Korea

SEOUL, South Korea — An American Christian missionary slipped into isolated North Korea on Christmas Day, shouting that he brought God's love and carrying a letter urging leader Kim Jong Il to step down and free all political prisoners, an activist said Saturday.

Robert Park, 28, crossed a poorly guarded stretch of the frozen Tumen River that separates North Korea from China, according to a member of the Seoul-based group Pax Koreana, which promotes human rights in the North. Two other activists apparently watched and filmed the entry.

"I am an American citizen. I brought God's love. God loves you and God bless you," Park reportedly said in fluent Korean as he crossed over Friday near the northeastern city of Hoeryong, according to the activist, citing the two who witnessed the scene. Pax Koreana planned to release the footage today in Seoul, he said. He spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation.

No information has emerged about what happened next to Park, who is of Korean descent. The communist country's state-run media was silent. The State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said they were aware of the incident but had no details.

"The U.S. government places the highest priority on the protection and welfare of American citizens," said State Department spokesman Andrew Laine.

The illegal entry could complicate Washington's efforts to coax North Korea back to negotiations aimed at its nuclear disarmament. Park's crossing also comes just months after the country freed two U.S. journalists, who were arrested along the Tumen and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for trespassing and "hostile acts." They were released to former President Bill Clinton on a visit to the isolated country in August.

Park, from Tucson, carried a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il calling for major changes to his totalitarian regime, according to the activist from Pax Koreana.

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