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U.S. Sending Special Envoy to Free Kenneth Bae, Imprisoned American Christian in North Korea

( [email protected] ) Aug 29, 2013 07:35 AM EDT
The U.S. State Department has said it will send a special envoy to North Korea in hopes of freeing Kenneth Bae, an imprisoned U.S. Christians who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, supposedly for plots he had made against the government.
This 2011 file family photo provided by Terri Chung shows Kenneth Bae. Bae, the latest of several Americans jailed by North Korea in recent years, has already waited longer for his freedom than any of the others had to. AP Photo/Courtesy Terri Chung, File

The U.S. State Department has said it will send a special envoy to North Korea in hopes of freeing Kenneth Bae, an imprisoned U.S. Christians who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, supposedly for plots he had made against the government.

The State Department recently announced in a press release that it’s sending Ambassador Robert King, the president’s special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, who will travel to Pyongyang on Friday, according to The Christian Post.

Bae, who struggles with diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver and a back problem, said in a video shared by CNN:

“I was hoping that my problem would be worked out by end of June. So my hope is that North Korea will forgive, and the U.S. will try harder to get me out speedily. I'm asking for their help.”

The Gospel Herald previously reported Bae is imprisoned for “committing hostile actions” against North Korea. His sister, Terri Chung, recently said in an interview that the 45-year-old diabetic Bae is going blind. She also said he is being forced to work in the fields for eight hours each day six days a week. She doesn’t know how long he will last.

Ryan Morgan, regional manager for East Asia with International Christian Concern which feeds information to persecution.org, has dedicated his life’s work to helping Christians who are persecuted. Morgan said North Korea is regarded as the worst persecutor of Christians in the world.

“Kenneth Bae is a Christian and an American citizen. From what we know, he was with YWAM in China for a number of years,” Morgan said, as we’ve previously reported. “Any type of missionary activity in North Korea is completely illegal. It’s illegal to own a Bible. Just owning a Bible is considered a political crime.”

As punishment, Morgan said, three generations of the offender’s family can suffer the same way. That means your father and your son can be sentenced to significant time in a North Korean prison camp. If there aren’t three generations of your family, they can sentence future generations to life in a prison camp, Morgan said.

North Korea has accused Bae, a father of three who worked as a tour guide, of “serious crimes” including setting up bases in China with the aim of bringing down the North Korean government, CNN reported. Chung, on the other hand, has argued that his Christian faith might have been the real reason he was targeted by officials, according to The Christian Post.

“His personal convictions and his beliefs as a Christian may have been deemed as, I don't know, perhaps hostile acts, but all I know is that he only had the best of intentions to help the people,” Chung said. “Maybe he was a little bit overzealous, I'm not sure.”

King is expected to ask North Korean officials to grant Bae special amnesty on humanitarian grounds “so that he can be reunited with his family and seek medical treatment.”