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N. Korea holds American from Lynnwood

The U.S. government has confirmed that Kenneth Bae, an American citizen who lives in Lynnwood, was being held by North Korea. He was there on a tourist trip when he was taken into custody.

 

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LYNNWOOD — Walking into a Pyongyang hospital room to greet her imprisoned son, Myunghee Bae was overcome with emotion. Talking exclusively to CNN, Bae said it was a “very happy moment. At the same time, I could not believe he was a prisoner in North Korea; a new realization.”

Bae was granted a five-day visa to North Korea and three short visits with her son, Kenneth; a total of six hours, in which she says there was not one moment’s silence. “He said he’s being treated very fairly,” she said. “He was taken to a special labor camp, so he was the only prisoner, and a whole lot of people have to stay with him, guards and doctors.”

Kenneth Bae, an American citizen, was arrested in November of last year and sentenced in May to 15 years of hard labor. The North Korean regime says he was found guilty of “hostile acts” and attempts to topple the government. His mother says he has a profound love for the country and its people, and any offense he caused was not intentional.

“Always, he wanted to help the people over there, help the country,” she said. “He always thought that way, but apparently he misunderstood their system, so a lot of things he realized — he did some harm to their country.” Bae added that her son’s Christian faith was so strong, he wanted to convey his feelings. North Korea is officially an atheist state and has punished missionaries in the past.

kenneth bae1Although Bae was unable to meet with North Korean officials to plead her son’s case, she wants to make her message to them clear: “Please give him mercy and give him amnesty to send him home. We apologize as a family on his behalf, but his health cannot sustain any longer if he is sent back to the labor camp again.”

Bae was forced to work in the camp for three months until his health deteriorated. His mother says his illnesses include diabetes, an enlarged heart, gallstones, back and neck pains, and high cholesterol. Bae says he looked better when she met him than he appeared in the footage of his hospitalization in August. But that brings its own concerns.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

Local News
10/11/13

Imprisoned Lynnwood man’s mother visits North Korea

WASHINGTON — The mother of Kenneth Bae, the American imprisoned in North Korea, has arrived in the country to visit her ailing son, according to a friend of the family.

Earlier this year, Bae, a Korean-American, was sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean labor camp for what the government called “hostile acts.”

His family has not been able to see him for almost a year since his November 3 arrest in North Korea.

“As a mother, I worry endlessly about his health,” said his mother, Myunghee Bae in a videotaped statement. “I want to see him, comfort and hold him in person. I miss him so much.”

Bae, of Lynwood, Washington, said that she pleaded with the North Korean authorities to let her visit her son, and expressed gratitude for granting permission. She is expected to be in North Korea for five days with the goal of encouraging her son who has become ill, according to a website dedicated to Kenneth Bae’s freedom.

Ikenneth bae1n a prison interview released in July, Kenneth Bae had spoken of health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver and a back problem. He looked noticeably thinner and wore a blue prison garment streaked with sweat and dirt.

His family say he has lost more than 50 pounds.

“My heart was broken into pieces when his prison interview was released on July 3,” said his mother, in her statement. “His appearance was very shocking, he looked so different, and he lost so much weight. I could not believe that prisoner was my son.”

Bae was moved to a hospital for serious health problems,his sister, Terri Chung had told CNN in August.

In previous interviews, Chung has said that her brother suffers from health problems including severe back and leg pain, kidney stones, dizziness, blurred vision and loss of vision. He was already dealing with diabetes.

His family and friends have asked North Korea for mercy and the United States for help in securing his release.

U.S. officials have repeatedly called on North Korea to release Bae. In August, the two countries appeared close, but North Korea rescinded an invitation to a U.S. envoy. Ambassador Robert King, President Barack Obama’s special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, had been expected to fly to Pyongyang to try to win his freedom.

In previous instances, North Korea has released Americans in its custody after a visit by some U.S. dignitary — in recent cases, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Bae was arrested last year after arriving as a tourist in Rason City, a port in the northeastern corner of North Korea. His sister says that Bae is the owner of a tour company and was in North Korea for work.

The North Korean government accuses Bae of setting up bases in China for the purpose of “toppling” the North Korean government, encouraging North Korean citizens to bring down the government and conducting a “malignant smear campaign.”

The country’s state media also says that Bae had planned what it called a “Jericho operation” to bring down North Korea through religious activities. They have suggested that Bae could have been sentenced to death, but avoided it through “candid confession of his crimes.”

On the eve of her trip, his mother looked solemnly into the camera, expressing her anxiety.

“It’s hard to describe the agony of the past year since my son has been imprisoned in the DPRK,” she said in a released statement. “I spend every day thinking about him and praying for his homecoming.”

From CNN 

rodman

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman arrives in Beijing Saturday after a five-day trip to North Korea. (CNN)

BEIJING (CNN) — Former NBA star Dennis Rodman arrived in Beijing on Saturday from North Korea without imprisoned American Kenneth Bae, the Lynnwood man arrested by the Pyongyang regime last year.

Rodman, who visited North Korea this week, was tight-lipped about his trip.

“It is not my job to talk about Kenneth Bae,” he told reporters gathered at the Beijing airport.

Sporting a silver, shiny cap and a long scarf, the 6-foot-7 inch former basketball star broke through the crowd and continued talking.

“Ask Obama about that, ask Hillary Clinton about that,” Rodman said. “Ask those —holes.”

The eccentric Hall of Famer’s trip was the second to the hardline communist state this year to visit North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In March, Rodman was pictured with Kim, an ardent basketball fan, laughing and eating while watching an all-star basketball match.

He was criticized over the trip, which came amid escalating tension with North Korea threatening missile strikes on the U.S., South Korea and Japan.

Rodman has previously made no secret about his desire to help Bae. He once tweeted that he wanted the 30-year-old unchallenged leader of North Korea to “do him a solid” by freeing Bae.

Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in February after he was convicted of unspecified “hostile acts” against North Korea. The country’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said he was arrested late last year after arriving as a tourist in Rason City, a northeastern port near the Chinese border.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Former basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in Pyongyang Tuesday on a five-day visit amid speculation he may try to negotiate the release of jailed U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

In Beijing, the gateway for flights to Pyongyang, Rodman told Reuters he was on another “basketball diplomacy tour” and would not be discussing the release of Bae.

“I’m not going to North Korea to discuss freeing Kenneth Bae,” Rodman told Reuters in a telephone interview before he left Beijing for Pyongyang. “I’ve come out here to see my friend (Kim) — and I want to talk about basketball,” he added.

Later pushing through a throng of journalists at Beijing airport, the 6 foot 7 inch (2.01 meter) former basketballer said: “I’m just trying to go over there to meet my friend Kim, the Marshal. Try to start a basketball league over there, something like that.”

RodmanHowever, he told the Huffington Post last week that he would likely broach the issue with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“I gave (Kim Jong-un) a great indication of when I’m going to Beijing soon — that’s just a hop, skip and a jump from North Korea. So basically, you know, I’m pretty sure I’ll be talking to him soon,” Rodman told the Huffington Post.

“I will definitely ask for Kenneth Bae’s release,” he said. “I will say, ‘Marshal, why is this guy held hostage?’ I could try and soften it up in that way.”

“If the Marshal says, ‘Dennis, you know, do you want me to let him loose?’ and then if I actually got him loose — and I’m just saying this out the blue — I’d be the most powerful guy in the world.”

Rodman’s trip — which is being sponsored by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power — is the second to the hardline Communist state this year. In March, Rodman was pictured with Kim, an ardent basketball fan, laughing and eating while watching an all-star basketball match.

He was criticized over the trip which came at a time of escalating tension, with North Korea threatening missile strikes on the U.S., South Korea and Japan.

Rodman has previously made no secret about his desire to help Bae. He once tweeted that he wanted the 30-year-old unchallenged leader of North Korea to “do him a solid” by freeing him.

Bae was sentenced to 15 years hard labor in February after he was convicted of unspecified “hostile acts” against North Korea. The country’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said the Korean-American was arrested late last year after arriving as a tourist in Rason City, a northeastern port near the Chinese border.

North Korea last week canceled a “humanitarian mission” by Robert King, U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights issues to Pyongyang, aimed at negotiating the release of Bae, citing annual military drills last week by the U.S. and South Korea.

From CNN 

Local News
08/30/13

N. Korea rescinds invitation to U.S. envoy over Lynnwood man

kenneth bae1

WASHINGTON (CNN) — North Korea has rescinded an invitation for a U.S. envoy to visit North Korea and try to secure the release of a detained American.

Ambassador Robert King, President Barack Obama’s special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, was expected to fly to the Asian nation on Friday to try to win the freedom of Kenneth Bae, an American citizen imprisoned there for carrying out “serious crimes” against Kim Jong Un’s regime.

North Korean authorities detained Bae, widely reported to be a Christian missionary, last year and sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor earlier this year. They said he had planned an operation to bring down the government through religious activities.

Bae’s family has said he was the owner of a tour company who was in North Korea for work.

His sister, Terri Chung, said earlier this month that Bae’s health has severely deteriorated during his imprisonment and that he has been transferred to a hospital. He has spent more time in North Korean custody than any other American.

King was to travel to Pyongyang at North Korea’s invitation, the U.S. State Department said this week.

The envoy, who has been traveling in the region, was to join a small delegation flying to North Korea’s capital on an American military jet on Friday, a U.S. official told CNN this week.

King led a U.S. delegation that in 2011 secured the release of Eddie Yong Su Jun, a Korean-American businessman who was detained in North Korea for several months.

Chung released the following statement Friday: “Our family is disappointed by the news that the special envoy is unable to go to Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) at this time. We have faith that the DPRK and U.S. diplomats will resume talks soon, ultimately leading to my brother being released. It has been 301 days since Kenneth was first detained. With every day, we continue to pray.

“We appreciate the work that the State Department and the Obama administration have been doing and have pledged to do for Kenneth’s release. We miss Kenneth and remain concerned about his health. We are not giving up hope for a peaceful and timely resolution.”

Calls for clemency

The North Korean supreme court in April found Bae guilty of carrying out “serious crimes” against the government, including setting up bases in China for the purpose of toppling Kim’s regime, encouraging North Korean citizens to bring down the government and conducting a smear campaign, according to the country’s state media.

King was to ask Pyongyang to pardon Bae and grant him amnesty on humanitarian grounds “so that he can be reunited with his family and seek medical treatment,” the State Department said.

The White House, in a separate statement, had urged the government of North Korea “to grant special clemency to Mr. Bae immediately and allow him to return home with Ambassador King.”

Bae suffers from severe back and leg pain and has lost more than 50 pounds, Chung said.

She said she received the information from the State Department, which told her the Swedish ambassador visited Bae in the hospital. Sweden represents U.S. interests in North Korea because the United States has no diplomatic presence there.

Bae also suffers from kidney stones, dizziness, blurred vision and loss of vision, Chung said. He was already dealing with other health problems, including diabetes.

Tensions between North Korea and the United States have eased somewhat since the spring, when Pyongyang unleashed a torrent of dramatic threats as U.S. and South Korean troops carried out large-scale military exercises in the region.

The uneasy period followed tougher U.N. sanctions on North Korea after the reclusive state carried out a long-range rocket launch in December and an underground nuclear test in February.

From CNN 

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced Tuesday that, at the invitation of the North Korean government, it is sending a special envoy to North Korea to try to secure the release of Kenneth Bae, a Lynnwood man who has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for alleged “hostile acts” against Pyongyang.

kenneth bae1U.S. Ambassador Robert King, the special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, will travel to Pyongyang on Friday, Aug. 30.

Bae was arrested in North Korea in November 2012 while visiting the country as a tour operator and was convicted April 30 of committing hostile against against North Korea.

“As the U.S. government has on a number of occasions since the April 30 verdict, Ambassador King will request the D.P.R.K. (North Korea) pardon Mr. Bae and grant him special amnesty on humanitarian grounds so that he can be reunited with his family and seek medical treatment,” a State Department spokesman said.

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., issued the following statement:  “I am encouraged by the State Department’s decision to send Ambassador King to North Korea and I thank the administration for its continued efforts to secure Kenneth’s release. Kenneth’s family has waited in anguish and uncertainty, but has never wavered in their tireless advocacy on his behalf. I commend the work of Ambassador King and all the State Department staff members who have worked to get to this point. I will continue working with the State Department and Kenneth’s family to ensure his safe return home.”

Bae is now suffering from severe back and leg pain and has lost more than 50 pounds, his sister Terri Chung told CNN recently.

In a video released last month, Bae appealed to North Korean authorities for forgiveness and asked the United States for help in securing his release.

“Although my health is not good, I am being patient and coping well,” Bae said, his head shaved and face noticeably thinner than in earlier photos.

in that interview, he spoke of health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver and a back problem.

“I know what I did is not easily forgivable, but I hope that things will work out so that I can be with my family again soon,” he said.

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., issued the following statement:  “I am encouraged by the State Department’s decision to send Ambassador King to North Korea and I thank the administration for its continued efforts to secure Kenneth’s release. Kenneth’s family has waited in anguish and uncertainty, but has never wavered in their tireless advocacy on his behalf. I commend the work of Ambassador King and all the State Department staff members who have worked to get to this point. I will continue working with the State Department and Kenneth’s family to ensure his safe return home.”

 Seoul, South Korea (CNN) — Kenneth Bae, the American citizen sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean labor camp, has been moved to a hospital after a serious deterioration in his health, his sister said.

Detained in North Korea in November and sentenced in April for “hostile acts to bring down its government,” Bae is now suffering from severe back and leg pain and has lost more than 50 pounds, his sister Terri Chung told CNN late Sunday.

kenneth bae1

Chung said she received the information from the U.S. State Department, which told her the Swedish ambassador to North Korea had visited Bae in the hospital on Friday. Sweden represents U.S. interests in North Korea because the United States has no diplomatic presence in the secretive state.

Detention in North Korea has taken a heavy toll on Bae, who has already been dealing with other health problems, including diabetes.

“I think the last three months in the labor camp have certainly been very trying on both his mental and physical health,” Chung said by phone from the Seattle area.

Bae from North Korean prison: Please help me

‘Tremendous’ stress

The eight hours per day of farm labor, which Bae had never done before, appear to have worsened his symptoms, she said, adding that “he’s also under a tremendous amount of stress.”

Other problems he’s suffering from include kidney stones, dizziness, blurred vision and loss of vision.

The family is “extremely concerned” about the situation and is pleading with the U.S. government to help Bae’s case, Chung said.

U.S. officials have repeatedly called on North Korea to release Bae, whose sentence was announced toward the end of a period of heightened tensions between the two countries.

But Kim Jong Un’s regime has so far showed no sign of budging on the case of Bae, who they call Pae Jun Ho.

There didn’t appear to be any recent articles published about Bae by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Hoping for release

In a video released early last month, Bae appealed to North Korean authorities for forgiveness and asked the United States for help in securing his release.

“Although my health is not good, I am being patient and coping well,” Bae said, his head shaved and face noticeably thinner than in earlier photos.

in that interview, he spoke of health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver and a back problem.

“I know what I did is not easily forgivable, but I hope that things will work out so that I can be with my family again soon,” he said.

Chung had previously said that Bae is the owner of a tour company and was in North Korea for work.

North Korean state media have detailed the reasons why Bae was sentenced.

Among the list of alleged crimes was setting up bases in China for the purpose of “toppling” the North Korean government, encouraging North Korean citizens to bring down the government and conducting a “malignant smear campaign.”

State media also say that Bae had planned what it called a “Jericho operation” to bring down North Korea through religious activities. They have suggested that Bae could have been sentenced to death, but avoided it through “candid confession of his crimes.”

Sister: ‘He’s not a spy’

–CNN’s Paula Hancocks reported from Seoul, and Jethro Mullen wrote from Hong Kong

CNN

Courtesy Choson Sinbo

NORTH KOREA – The American citizen sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean labor camp has appealed to the Korean authorities for forgiveness and asked the United States for help in securing his release in an exclusive interview from prison obtained Wednesday by CNN.

Pae Jun Ho, known as Kenneth Bae by U.S. authorities, was found guilty in an April 30 trial of “hostile acts to bring down its government” and planning anti-North Korea religious activities, according to the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Watch the CNN Video of Bae here 

“Although my health is not good, I am being patient and coping well,” Bae said. “And I hope that with the help of the North Korean government and the United States, I will be released soon.”

In the interview footage, his head was shaved and his face noticeably thinner than the previous photos of the Korean-American. Bae wore a blue prison garment streaked with sweat and dirt that bore the number 103.

“I know what I did is not easily forgivable, but I hope that things will work out so that I can be with my family again soon,” Bae continued.

The video was made by a pro-North Korean group based in Tokyo, Choson Sinbo, which interviewed Bae in prison recently. The interview is believed to be the first since Bae’s sentencing about two months ago.

Choson Sinbo was permitted to conduct the interview by North Korea. The edited footage, which runs less than eight minutes, was made available to CNN.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

bae3SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Sunday that it will not use imprisoned American Kenneth Bae of Lynnwood as a political bargaining chip and that it will not invite any prominent Americans to discuss a release, it was reported.

In the past, jailed Americans in North Korea were eventually released or deported after U.S. officials or former U.S. presidents such as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter flew over to North Korea to meet with the leaders there.

This time, North Korea “has no plan to invite anyone of the U.S. as regards the issue,” a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying Sunday by the official Korean Central News Agency, and reported from Seoul, South Korea, by The New York Times.

Bae, 44, was sentenced last week to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly committing “hostile acts” against North Korea.

According to the Times, human rights activists in South Korea have said that Bae, from Washington state, ran a tour business in China. He visited North Korea several times and was interested in helping orphans there, they said.

North Korea said Sunday that Bae entered North Korea “with a disguised identity in an intentional way under the back-stage manipulation of the forces hostile toward the D.P.R.K.,” and committed “various crimes” which were “aimed at the state subversion.”

During his trial, Mr. Bae confessed and admitted his crimes, the North said, according to the state media.

Bae was arrested in Rason, in the northeast, in November after leading a group of businessmen there from Yanji, China.

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