Don’t forget incarcerated American Kenneth Bae

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Kenneth Bae, an American man from Washington State, has spent more than nine months imprisoned in North Korea. That’s longer than any other American recently held there.

While the US has called for Bae’s immediate release, North Korean scholar Charles Armstrong explains part of the dilemma for US officials dealing with the situation. “They don’t want to encourage this type of behavior from North Korea,” said Armstrong, professor of Korean studies at Columbia University and director of the school’s Center for Korean Research. “They don’t want to be seen as giving in to pressure from the North Korean government, but there’s also a strong humanitarian interest in getting an American citizen released.”

Since 2009, North Korea has detained at least six Americans, then released them only after visits from prominent US dignitaries. Armstrong suspects that’s what the reclusive Asian regime is after.

Based out of China since 2006, Kenneth Bae traveled frequently to North Korea as a tour operator and Christian missionary. In November, he was arrested, then later convicted of “hostile acts” against the North Korean government. Details about his alleged crimes are still unclear.

“All I know is my brother is a good man,” his sister says.  “He has a huge heart to help people in the nation of North Korea. He is religious, and his religious convictions may have been overzealous and may have been deemed, and seen, as hostile against the state.”

His sister adds they try to stay hopeful, through the dark moments. One of the darkest came in May, when CNN aired a video of Kenneth in prison. He appears in a stained prison uniform, his eyes downcast and tearful. “He looks so sad and panicked,” his mother Myunghee Bae said. “He’s not my son I remember. He looks totally broken. It’s the worst moment of my life.”

From the video, Myunghee Bae noticed her son had lost a lot of weight. He’s since told her that his health is failing, possibly from diabetes-related complications.

In recent months, Kenneth Bae has been able to call home four times and send several letters.



This entry was posted in , by Grant Montgomery.

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