Kenneth Bae’s family speaks about his homecoming
SEATTLE – Kenneth Bae’s family says they are grateful the Lynnwood man has been returned to them, in good health.
Terri Chung said it was emotional watching her brother walk off a plane at JBLM last night. “It’s finally happening. This is the moment we’ve been praying for and working towards for the past two years,” she says. “We had agreed that my mom would hug him first, and when I saw that, wow. It was a moment.”
Bae had been imprisoned in North Korea for more than two years, sentenced to 15 years hard labor. Earlier this week, the State Department told Bae’s family that they were sending an envoy to North Korea to try and secure his release.
“We just kind of held onto that and tried not to get our hopes up,” says Chung. “Because there had been a lot of heartbreak and disappointment when we got our hopes up too high.”
The North Korean government says they released Bae and another US prisoner after receiving an “earnest apology” from President Obama, delivered by National Intelligence Director James Clapper.
“Obviously we’re very grateful for their safe return,” said President Obama. “I appreciate Director Clapper doing a great job on what was obviously a challenging mission.”
Last night, Bae thanked the president and all those who said prayers for him and pushed for his release.
“I just want to say thank you for supporting me and lifting me up and not forgetting me.”
He also thanked the North Korean government for allowing him to return home.
“It’s been an amazing two years. I learned a lot, I grew a lot.”
Chung says he holds no ill will towards those who held him captive.
“He only has the best wishes and intentions for that country still.”
She says he hasn’t talked much about what he went through. Last night, the family just ate pizza and enjoyed being together again.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be like going forward. I don’t know if he knows. There’s going to be a lot of emotional stress and things he’s going to have to deal with,” she says. “I am thankful that for now he seems to be doing remarkably well, he’s in good spirits.”
She says she’s not sure if Bae wants to go back to North Korea, but it won’t be anytime soon. His wife is still in China, and his children are in another state. Right now, they’re making plans to reunite and spend Thanksgiving together.