Tue, Nov 23, 2010 - Page 5 News List

US boy protests in Beijing to make Korean DMZ park

AP, BEIJING

Jonathan Lee holds his banner during an interview in Beijing on Sunday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

A 13-year-old US boy campaigning to turn the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea into a peace park tried to get the Chinese president’s attention yesterday, staging a brief protest near Tiananmen Square before being led away by police.

Jonathan Lee unfurled a sign saying “peace treaty” and “nuclear free DMZ children’s peace forest” as he stood outside Tiananmen, or the Gate of Heavenly Peace.

Less than a minute later, a man presumed to be a plainclothes police officer grabbed Lee’s sign and waved away watching journalists, who had been contacted by Lee’s family ahead of time.

Three or four uniformed police officers then hurriedly escorted Lee and his mother away without commotion.

Police held the pair and a few hours later Lee and his mother, Melissa Lee, returned to their hotel. Then, the two, as well as the boy’s father and sister, checked out of their rooms at the Courtyard Marriott, a hotel receptionist said.

Joel Clark, a documentary filmmaker who traveled to China with the Lees, said an e-mail he received from Mrs Lee suggested that they had been told to leave China.

“They escorted us here to the hotel and we are free to leave ... today,’” Clark quoted the e-mail as saying. “Police are waiting downstairs.’”

The boy, from Ridgeland, Mississippi, is trying to persuade the leaders of North and South Korea, China and the US to work for reunification of the two Koreas.

“Hopefully my picketing will touch them in a way, so they’ll really consider peace, you know, between North and South Korea,” Lee said in an interview on Friday with the documentary filmmaker. “I guess I’m just trying to do, you know, what God would want: making peace.”

His father, Kyoung Lee, said in a written statement yesterday that his son has sent letters to US President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, but had not been able to give a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). That, the father said, made the Tiananmen protest necessary.

Passionate and strong-willed Lee is the latest, and perhaps youngest, activist to try to bring peace to the heavily militarized Korean Peninsula.

Lee made a rare visit to North Korea in August to propose his idea of a “children’s peace forest” in the demilitarized zone and was taken on a tour of the 4km wide buffer zone, which is sealed off with electric fences and studded with land mines. A hoped-for meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il did not materialize, although Lee said the officials forwarded to Kim a letter from him.

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