Kenneth Bae, the American missionary who has been imprisoned in North Korea for “crimes against the state”, attended a press conference on Monday and asked the U.S. government to work with North Korea to aid in his release.
“I believe that my problem can be solved by close cooperation and agreement between the American government and the government of this country,” he said. “The vice president of United States said that I was detained here without any reason. And even my younger sister recently told the press that I had not committed any crime and I know that the media reported it. I think these comments infuriated the people here enormously. And for this reason, I am in a difficult situation now. As a result, although I was in medical treatment in the hospital for five months until now, it seems I should return to prison. And moreover there is greater difficulty in discussions about my amnesty.”
Bae was arrested in November of 2012 while leading a tour group and said on Monday that he was indeed guilty of the crimes he’s charged with, but Kim Jin Moo, a North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, says the admission of guilt may have come after prodding from North Korea officials. There has been speculation for months now that Bae’s detention may have come from a desire to get the U.S. to reach out regarding their nuclear weapons program.
“The reason why North Korea had Kenneth Bae make this statement … is that they want Washington to reach out to them,” Kim said.
Basketball star Dennis Rodman has made headlines for several months for his friendship with North Korea leader Kim Jung Un and has championed Bae’s cause in the past, but recent comments he made about Bae’s imprisonment being the right decision angered his family.
“Dennis Rodman could do a lot of good by advocating for Kenneth to Kim Jong-un, but instead he has decided to hurl outrageous accusations at my brother, insinuating that Kenneth has done something sinister,” Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, said in a statement. “He is clearly uninformed about Kenneth’s case, and he is certainly not in any position to pass judgment on Kenneth Bae, who has never any hostile intentions against the DPRK.”
Bae reportedly suffers from diabetes, an enlarged heart, liver problems, and back pain but has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. His family is asking for amnesty on his behalf since he is the longest-detained American citizen in North Korea’s history.
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