Aijalon Mahli Gomes '01 was sentenced to eight years of hard labor and fined the equivalent of $700,000 on Tuesday for illegally entering North Korea across the Chinese border on January 25, according to the Washington Post.

Gomes, who is from Boston, had recently spent time in South Korea teaching English, but reports do not indicate what his plans were at the time of his trespassing. The Boston Globe speculated that Gomes might have been inspired to enter North Korea by the situation of Robert Park, an evangelical missionary from Tucson who entered the country illegally on December 25.

"Rights campaigners in Seoul, the South Korean capital, were quoted in news accounts as saying Gomes had met Park last year at church-sponsored protests—and had been very upset by Park's arrest," the Globe reported. "Park was released in late February after making what many experts believe was a forced confession. South Korean media said Parks was subjected to physical and sexual abuse during his 43 days in custody."

Associate Professor of Asian Studies and Government Henry Laurence shed light onto the political climate of North Korea in an e-mail to the Orient, writing, "I'm afraid that it is true to form that the North Korean government is paranoid, highly sensitive to criticism about its abysmal human rights record and desperate enough to take this extraordinarily harsh action."

While at Bowdoin, Gomes majored in English and was an active member of the Residential Life staff, serving as both a proctor and a residential advisor.

Associate Professor of English Peter Coviello taught Gomes and remembered him "as simply a delight of a young man," calling him "personable and inquisitive and sharp-minded and curious," in an e-mail to the Orient.

"Aijalon was a caring and charismatic Residential Life staff member who connected with many students across the campus," Lisa Rendall, associate director of housing operations, wrote in an e-mail to the Orient. "I expect he left a positive impression on any student who spent time with him."

On Thursday, the Globe reported that the "U.S. State Department expressed concern for his wellbeing and said he should be granted amnesty. Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts called for Gomes's freedom."