45-year-old Kenneth Bae, an American citizen detained in North Korea for the last 9 months, has been transferred from the labor camp he has been being held at to the hospital according to his family.
Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, has spoken out saying that “there’s more urgency than ever to bring him home,” due to his deteriorating health. According to Chung, Bae suffers from “diabetes, an enlarged heart, liver problems and back pain.”
The Associated Press reports:
Kenneth Bae, a 45-year-old tour operator and Christian missionary, was arrested last November and accused of subversive activities against the government. He was sentenced in May to 15 years hard labor, and in letters to his family in the Seattle area he described working in the fields weeding and planting beans and potatoes.
Bae, a father of three, was born in South Korea and immigrated to the U.S. with his parents and sister in 1985. For the past seven years he has been living in China, and a couple of years ago began leading small tour groups, mostly of American and Canadian citizens, into a “special economic zone” designed to encourage commerce in the northeastern region of Roson in North Korea, Chung said.
Several years ago, Bae gave a sermon in which he advocated bringing Americans to North Korea for a mass prayer session to bring about the reunification of North and South Korea. The charges against him included “hostile acts” against the government.
North Korea has detained at least 6 American citizens since 2009. According to the AP, “the others were eventually allowed to leave without serving out their terms, some after prominent Americans, including former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, visited North Korea,” and the State Department has called for Bae’s release on “humanitarian grounds.” Former president Jimmy Carter says he plans to travel to North Korea “very soon” to press for Bae’s release, and Former NBA star turned diplomat, Dennis Rodman, asked Kim Jong Un to “do me a solid” and release Kenneth Bae earlier this year. Rodman is also planning another trip to Pyongyang in August to make his request to Kim in person.
A Swedish deputy ambassador reportedly met with Bae at the hospital Friday. Sweden represents American interests in North Korea due to the fact that the U.S. has no official diplomatic relations with the country.
Bae’s son has also started an online petition at change.org calling for his father’s freedom.
Photo: AP File/Courtesy Terri Chung