Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American tour operator, was arrested by security authorities in North Korea in early November. A US official told CNN that Kenneth Bae, whose Korean name is Pae Jun Ho, is affiliated with a Protestant religious group.
Bae, 44, entered the northeastern port city of Rajin on November 3 along with five other tourists for a five-day trip. Rajin is a special economic zone across the border from the Chinese city of Yanji, where many Christian groups shelter North Korean refugees — something which angers the North Korean state considerably.
Bae was detained by North Korean authorities and questioned after a computer hard disk was found among the group of tourists, an unidentified source has said. The source added that the hard disk might have contained sensitive information about North Korea.
After his detention, Bae was transferred to Pyongyang for further investigation.
Last year, Eddie Yong Su Jun, a Korean-American missionary, was arrested and then released after facing indictment on charges of committing an unspecified crime against the regime.
In 2010, North Korea set free Robert Park, a Korean-American Christian activist who crossed into the country on Christmas Day 2009 to draw international attention to the North’s poor human rights record.
Also in 2010, former President Jimmy Carter helped secure the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, another U.S. citizen and Christian activist, who had been fined roughly $600,000 and sentenced to eight years of hard labor for crossing over the Chinese border into North Korea.
In 2009, former U.S. President Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang to win the release of two American journalists caught during a reporting tour covering North Korean defectors.
Bae’s detention comes amid tensions over Pyongyang’s planned long-range rocket launch. Concerns have been raised that Pyongyang may try to use the case as a “bargaining chip” or a trump card in forcing the US into post-launch talks.