The U.S. State Department is renewing its call for North Korea to release a U.S. Christian missionary hospitalized in Pyongyang after being sentenced to 15 years at a hard labor camp.
Kenneth Bae, an American citizen, was arrested on Nov. 3, 2012, in the port city of Rajin and sentenced in May to 15 years of hard labor for committing “hostile acts” and “plotting to overthrow the government.”
Bae, who was sent to a special labor camp where he was the only prisoner, was hospitalized after three months when his health started to fail, his sister Terri Chung said, adding that her 45-year-old brother suffers from diabetes and an enlarged heart, among other medical conditions. Bae’s mother, Myunghee Bae, was recently granted a five-day visa to North Korea last month to visit her son for a total of six hours.
“We continue to work actively to secure Mr. Bae’s release, working in close consultation with the Swedish Embassy,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said. “If the DPRK renews its invitation, Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Ambassador Robert King is prepared to travel to the DPRK on a humanitarian mission focused on securing the release of Mr. Bae.”
Bae, who has a wife and three children, is a Christian missionary who was based in China and working as a tour guide at the time of his arrest. He has been held longer by the North Korean regime than any other known U.S. citizen since the Korean War, according to International Christian Concern, a Washington, D.C.-based activist group that focuses on the human rights of Christians.