North Korea announced Tuesday that it is holding an American who illegally entered the country on Christmas Eve, possibly a Korean-American missionary who told relatives he was trying to sneak into the isolated communist state.
The state-run Korea Central News Agency said the man was taken into custody after entering North Korea from China on December 24 and was "now under investigation by a relevant organ."
It provided no details, but the description appears to match the case of 28-year-old Robert Park, an Arizona man reported to have entered the country illegally to bring a message of "Christ's love and forgiveness" to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
"He loves you and wants to save you and all of North Korea today," reads the letter, a copy of which was posted on a South Korean Web site last week. "Please open your borders so that we may bring food, provisions, medicine, necessities, and assistance to those who are struggling to survive. Please close down all concentration camps and release all political prisoners today, and allow care teams to enter to minister healing to those who have been tortured and traumatized."
Park's parents told CNN affiliate KFMB that their son was willing to risk his life to deliver that message.
"He said, 'I'm not afraid to die as long as the whole world, every nation, pays attention to the North Korea situation,' " said his father, Pyong Park.
Monday, the U.S. State Department said it was concerned by reports that Park had gone into North Korea but could not confirm them.
"We don't have any independent confirmation about either the report that he crossed over or his whereabouts," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said. Washington and Pyongyang have no diplomatic relations, but Kelly said the Swedish Embassy -- which looks after U.S. interests in North Korea -- has offered to try to find out more.
North Korean authorities take a dim view of people who enter its territory without authorization.
Two American journalists who were arrested along the North Korean-Chinese border in March faced a 12-year sentence at hard labor, but were released after a meeting between Kim and former U.S. President Bill Clinton in Pyongyang.