According to those who know Kenneth Bae, he is someone who is always surrounded by friends, hosting homemade meals and regaling everyone with hilarious tales and his renditions of Elvis Presley tunes. He is the fun-loving uncle who showers his nieces with affection.
They claim he is someone who always does the right thing, no matter the cost. He is the guy who dropped out of college at the age of 22 to support his own young family. He is the guy who would come home late from working two jobs and just spend hours watching his baby son sleep.
He is the guy who follows his personal convictions, even to the ends of the world.
Several years ago, Kenneth saw an opportunity that combined his entrepreneurial spirit with his personal convictions as a Christian. He believed in showing compassion to the North Korean people by contributing to their economy in the form of tourism. Based out of China since 2006, he started his own tour company specializing in tours to North Korea, a remote country filled with stunning vistas and a people proud of their history and tradition. His livelihood was to introduce the natural beauty of the country and its people to the outside world as a tour operator. His heart was to be a personal touch-point of compassionate humanity to the North Korean people.
On November 3, 2012, North Korean authorities arrested Kenneth while he was leading a tourist group on one of his regular routine trips—a tour he had led at least over 15 times before—in Rason (Rajin-Sonbong), one of North Korea’s special economic zones for foreign investors.
He was charged with plotting to overthrow the communist government, but the exact details of his arrest are still unknown.
His family and friends say Kenneth is a good man with a big heart who only wanted to help the people of North Korea, and now he has been sentenced to 15 years in a hard labor camp for what the DPRK identified as “hostile acts” against the North Korean government.
Nine months into his imprisonment, Kenneth’s health was failing as his body strained to withstand the impact of the labor camp.
Kenneth has chronic health conditions, including diabetes, an enlarged heart, and back and leg pain. He is also losing his vision due to diabetes-related complications. He requires vital monitoring and medical treatment. Two hundred eighty days into his imprisonment, Kenneth’s family was informed of his transfer to a North Korean state hospital after further serious deterioration of his health.
CNN reported on July 3, 2013 that Kenneth appealed to the Korean authorities for forgiveness and asked the United States for help in securing his release. Pae Jun Ho, known as Kenneth Bae by U.S. authorities, was found guilty in an April 30 trial of “hostile acts to bring down its government” and planning anti-North Korea religious activities, according to the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“Although my health is not good, I am being patient and coping well,” Bae said. “And I hope that with the help of the North Korean government and the United States, I will be released soon. 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,” said Bae.
In the interview footage, his head was shaved and his face noticeably thinner than the previous photos of the Korean-American.
On Oct. 11. 2013 Kenneth’s mother was allowed visitation with her son and offered him encouragement. His mother said she was grateful that they were able to spend some time together. She also said,
I was happy to see him and to hold him, but it broke my heart to leave him behind. I am more anxious than ever to bring him home. His year-long imprisonment has taken a heavy toll not only on Kenneth but on the whole family; every day the pain and anxiety continue to carve a deep scar on all of our hearts.
I plead with our government to do everything in their power to secure my son’s release soon.
In a bizarre event back in Febuary 2013, the controversial former NBA player, Dennis Rodman visited the country with a brutal dictatorship and met with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Rodman said they ‘hung out’ and apparently became friends. In December, Rodman made a second trip back to North Korea, but before leaving had mentioned he would be the one to procure Kenneth Bae’s release.
Rodman returned back to the U.S. and he told reporters the topic of Bae’s detainment ‘never came up.’ Bobby Lee, a friend of Bae, spoke out against Dennis Rodman and made the following statement:
Dennis Rodman tweeted to the world that he would step up and bring American citizen Kenneth Bae back home from a North Korean prison. Rodman claimed that Obama couldn’t do it. But he could. Then he folded like a cheap tent.
“Guess what? That’s not my job to ask about Bae,” an angry Rodman said to the media after smoking cigars with the North Korean leader Kim Jung Un. How nice.
What really happened? Rodman used Bae’s misfortune to elevate his eroding Hollywood brand. He took advantage of Bae’s setback to stage his own comeback. All the free press he received around the world would make Justin Bieber blush. And he is the only one laughing all the way to the bank while Bae’s family and friends—and the American people—are left heartbroken.
Rodman says he wants to introduce North Koreans to the world. North Koreans will take one look at him and ask, “what planet is this guy from?” We can’t think of a better argument for Kim Jung Un’s policies of complete isolation from the rest of the world than Dennis Rodman.
Rodman, there’s a real person’s life at stake. You’ve gone too far.
They call Rodman the Worm. Starting today, I ask the American people to start calling Rodman by his new nickname: Cheap Tent.
Rodman has faced serious criticism over his ongoing relationship with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, and for his refusal to leverage for the release of imprisoned Bae. In recent headlines, Rodman on his third trip to North Korea embarrassed himself while being interviewed by Chris Cuomo on CNN.
“Are you going to take an opportunity, if you get it, to speak up for the family of Kenneth Bae and say, Let us know why this man is being held?’ If you can help them, will you take the opportunity?” Obviously irritated for being asked about Kenneth Bae, Rodman accused him of an unspecified offense and was unable to give straight answers. In a rant, he screamed at Cuomo to recognize the sacrifice being made by his fellow players that he brought along on the trip.
Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, told Anderson Cooper 360 that Rodman’s comments were shocking and outrageous.
“He was in a position to do some good and to help advocate for Kenneth,” she said. “He refused to do so. But then instead he has chosen to hurl these outrageous accusations against Kenneth. He clearly doesn’t know anything about Kenneth, about his case. And so we were appalled by that.”
She said her brother was legally working as a tour operator in North Korea when he was arrested in November 2012. She said she hoped one of the former basketball players would take a chance to ask for amnesty for him.
“This isn’t some game. This is about a person’s life,” she said.
Rodman blamed his actions on being drunk and after sobering up, realized he’d made a mistake. He said, “I want to first apologize to Kenneth Bae’s family. I want to apologize to my teammates and my management team. I also want to apologize to Chris Cuomo. I embarrassed a lot of people. I’m very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I’m truly sorry.”
Kenneth’s family say they have accepted Rodman’s apology.
The U.S. government has said Kenneth Bae is not guilty of any crimes. Vice President Joe Biden said last month that Bae is being held without reason, which Pyongyang denies. On January 20, Kenneth commented at what he called a press conference held at his own request and under guard during the appearance. It is not unusual for prisoners in North Korea to say after their release that they spoke in similar situations under duress. He made an apology and said he had committed anti-government acts. He also said recent comments in the media from the U.S. side, most likely alluding to Biden’s remarks — have made his situation more complicated.
“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.
I had mixed emotions as I watched my brother today as he spoke from a hospital in North Korea (DPRK). I was encouraged that he appeared to be in decent health, but it was still painful to see him in his prison uniform, number 103. My brother is not a number to me, or to the rest of his family. He is a kind and loving husband, father, son and brother – and needs to be home immediately.
Kenneth was not his usual cheerful self during the press conference, as I am sure he is worn down physically and emotionally after 15 months of imprisonment. In his eyes, I could see that he was distressed. We remain gravely concerned about his health.
To the leaders of DPRK, we understand that Kenneth has been convicted of crimes under DPRK laws. Our family sincerely apologizes on Kenneth’s behalf. Kenneth has also acknowledged his crimes and has apologized. He has now served 15 months of his sentence, but faces chronic health problems. We humbly ask for your mercy to release my brother.
This is also the third time Kenneth has made a public plea to US leaders for help. Kenneth has been detained longer than any other American in recent history and the only one to do hard labor before his health failed. We do not know how long it will take for his release – or how long he will have to endure. We are worried that he will be sent back to the labor camp, as he mentioned was a possibility in today’s press conference.
We appreciate all work that our US leaders have done behind the scenes, but now we ask or increased support from our government to secure Kenneth’s release. We have faith in our government to protect the well-being of Americans both at home and abroad. We implore Secretary Kerry and President Obama to take immediate action to bring Kenneth home.
To all that may be reading this or listening, we need your VOICE. Please join us to advocate for Kenneth’s immediate release by calling your congressperson, the State Department and the White House, and by visiting:
The United States said Monday it was ready to send an envoy to North Korea to bring back a jailed American after he appeared before reporters in Pyongyang pleading for his release.
Kenneth Bae, a missionary arrested in November 2012 and jailed for 15 years, admitted to wrongdoing and called on the US government to help secure his freedom so that he could return to his family “at the earliest possible date.”
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington remained “very concerned” about Bae’s health and was actively working to release him.
“We continue to urge the DPRK authorities to grant Bae amnesty and immediate release,” Psaki said, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Another US official who requested anonymity voiced hope that putting Bae in front of reporters signalled North Korea’s “willingness to release him.”
The official said that Robert King, the US envoy on human rights in North Korea was prepared to bring Bae home.
“We have offered to send ambassador King to Pyongyang to secure Mr. Bae’s release. We have asked the North Koreans this, and await their early response,” the official said. Read Full coverage HERE
Many wonder if negotiations are a possibility. Terri Chung, Bae’s sister, weighed in with Andrea Mitchell on MSNCB. See video HERE
Secretary of State John Kerry met Tuesday with relatives of the American held by North Korea and is calling for him to be pardoned and immediately freed.
Bae’s mother Myunghee Bae and sister Terri Chung were invited to President Obama’s State of the Union address, hosted by two Democratic lawmakers.
Rep. Charles Rangel said that by inviting the family, he was reiterating his call for North Korea to free Bae.
“As a Korean War veteran, I have long advocated for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and hope North Korea would take steps to build trust and reconciliation by first reuniting the Bae family,” he said in a statement.
In Beijing, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies also appealed for Bae’s freedom, saying he’s already been held longer than any other American detainee in North Korea in recent decades.
Davies was in Beijing for talks with Chinese officials on how to persuade North Korea to return to nuclear disarmament talks.
“North Korea I think has made its point about Kenneth Bae and we are in frequent communication with the North Koreans to try to find a resolution to this issue. It’s very, very important to us,” Davies said. source
The family asks,
As we wait, please remember to sign Kenneth’s petition, contact your government leaders at all levels, and send letters of encouragement and hope to Kenneth. Let us continue to pray, meditate, and talk to others about Kenneth, working every day to move one step closer to bringing him home.