NORTH KOREA: Kenneth Bae’s son campaigns for his release

Kenneth Bae, an American Christian, has been imprisoned in North Korea since November 2012. His son Jonathan is campaigning for his release.

An American citizen who was born in South Korea, Kenneth Bae (45) was arrested while leading a tour in North Korea’s Rason City and sentenced to 15 years in labour camp. His tour company is based in China, where he had been living with his wife and three children, and he had organised several previous tours to North Korea. It is unclear whether the reasons for Kenneth Bae’s arrest related to his Christian faith. Apparently he was known to feed North Korean orphans during his visits, and it was reported that his computer hard disk contained “delicate information” (possibly pictures of orphans), considered an act of anti-North Korean propaganda.

In April, the North Korean news agency stated: “Mr Bae committed crimes aimed to topple the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with hostility toward it.” It was also alleged that he took part in evangelism activities. During a 2009 sermon at a church in the USA he said that he hoped, through prayer and worship, to bring down North Korea’s walls, in a project he called “Operation Jericho”.

In July, Mr Bae said in a video produced by a North Korean newspaper, “I know what I did is not easily forgivable, but I hope that things will work out so that I can be with my family again soon… people here are very considerate, so I’m not working too hard… I hope that with the help of the North Korean government and the United States, I will be released soon.”

In August, Mr Bae was moved to hospital due to ill health. His sister said that since his arrest he had lost more than 22kg (3¬Ω stone), and is suffering from diabetes, an enlarged heart, liver problems and back pain.

Jonathan Bae’s campaign

Kenneth Bae’s son Jonathan, an American citizen and a Christian, has launched a petition to President Barack Obama, the Senate, the House of Representatives and Secretary of State John Kerry. The following is an extract from his statement.

“My father – like any other American father – was working hard to provide for his family. Through his tour company that he started, he was able to show the natural beauty of North Korea to many. My father was arrested on November 3, 2012 while working as a tour operator in Rason (Rajin-Sonbong), one of North Korea’s special economic zones for foreign investors. My father is a good man with the biggest heart for the people and nation of North Korea, and now he has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for what the DPRK identified as anti-government activities.

“On July 3, 2013… a video of my father was released from the North Korean labor camp. My family was shocked to see him! He had lost a significant amount of weight, and his time in prison has clearly taken a toll on his health – and this was only two months into his 15-year sentence. The video showed my father working eight hours of physical labour in the fields, ploughing and farming six days a week. He has chronic health conditions, including diabetes, heart problems and back pain, which require close monitoring and medical treatment. We don’t know how quickly his health will deteriorate and how much longer his body can withstand the impact of the labour camp.

“We have been distraught by my father’s deteriorating health and his sentence of hard labour. However, we have not given up hope because we have faith in our government to represent and protect American citizens here and abroad. Please pursue every course of possible action, without delay, to secure Special Amnesty for my father and allow him to come home to his family and friends.”

Could Dennis Rodman help?

Failing a successful intervention from Barak Obama’s administration, Jonathan Bae hopes that former professional basketball player Dennis Rodman, on his second trip to North Korea, might perform a “miracle” and help to bring his father home.

“North Korea is a crazy place and anything is possible, even Dennis Rodman rescuing my father,” said Jonathan Bae, although he admitted it was unlikely. “It is not likely Rodman will be able to bring my father home, but miracles happen. If anyone can bring him back it’s someone who calls Kim Jung-Un a friend.”

Dennis Rodman spoke to reporters in Beijing before leaving for Pyongyang, but would not say if he would be seeking Kenneth Bae’s release: “I just want to meet my friend Kim, the marshal, and start a basketball league over there or something like that. I have not been promised anything. I am just going there as a friendly gesture. I’m not there to be a diplomat. I’m there to go there and just have a good time, sit with [Kim] and his family, and that’s pretty much it.”

Another source of hope for the Bae family was the planned visit to North Korea of US diplomat Robert King. However, North Korean officials cancelled his visit, citing an American military exercise held over South Korea.

(ABC News, Assist News)