American Missionary Sentenced to 15 years in North Korean Prison Camp
North Korean prison camps continue to hold several Americans accused of committing crimes against the North Korean government. Earlier this year, Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for committing “hostile [and religious] acts to bring down the government.” He has been in custody since November, 2012, and received his sentence in May 2013. Do Hee-youn, of the Citizens’ Coalition for the Human Rights of North Korean Refugees, speculates that the “crime” was that Bae took photos of orphans with whom he was working to improve their lives. The government would consider this act to be anti-Korean propaganda.
In a video made public in July, Bae admits to the crimes he was accused of and begs for forgiveness and his release. Many believe he was forced to confess his “guilt.” Since the video’s publication, Bae has lost over 50 pounds and is in failing health. This information was provided by a Swedish ambassador, representing the interests of the US since we have no official diplomatic relationship with North Korea, after visiting Bae in prison. Bae suffers from diabetes, an enlarged heart, liver problems, and extreme back and leg pain. He has sent letters home describing the work that he has been doing in the fields, and begs his family and the United States to do more to advocate for his release.
The White House has been urging for his return, citing his health as one reason he should be sent home to his family. “Kenneth Bae has been in DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) custody for over a year, and we continue to urge the DPRK authorities to grant him amnesty and immediate release,” says Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council. She goes on to express the concern of the United States about Bae and other Americans currently being detained.
White House officials, the families and friends of the captives, and the US at large are anxious for a safe return home for Kenneth Bae and other Americans serving time in North Korean prison camps. To sign a petition advocating for Bae’s release, click here. To join the Facebook page with the same purpose, click here.