Reported detainee in N. Korea likely missionary

North Korea’s official news agency reported Tuesday that an American citizen is being detained in the reclusive country but stopped short of saying whether it’s an Encinitas couple’s missing 28-year-old missionary son.

The brief dispatch by KCNA said the detained American crossed the river border into North Korea on Thursday and was under interrogation, The New York Times reported.

Jo Sung-rae, head of Pax Koreana, a conservative civic group based in Seoul, said earlier this week that Robert Park, a resident of Tucson, Ariz., whose parents live in Encinitas, crossed into North Korea last week, saying, “I am an American citizen. I am coming here to deliver God’s love. God loves you.”

Park reportedly planned to deliver a letter demanding that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il end his people’s suffering.

Before making the journey, Park said he was determined to become a “martyr” for the tens of thousands of people said to be incarcerated in North Korean concentration camps, Jo told The Times.

In a videotaped message he made before the trip, Park said he wanted to be arrested and had no intention of leaving North Korea until it shuts down its camps. He also said he did not want President Barack Obama to “buy his freedom,” according to The Times.

Last August, former President Bill Clinton led a delegation to Pyongyang to negotiate the release of two American journalists held in North Korea for nearly five months. Prior to their release, Laura Ling and Euna Lee were each sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for trespassing and “hostile acts.”

The missing man last contacted his family in Encinitas via e-mail on Dec. 23, saying that “some great things are going to happen” and that he loved them, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on Monday.