In response to American prisoner Kenneth Bae's plea to the United States for help with his imprisonment in North Korea, Washington has now offered to send an envoy to Pyongyang to retrieve him. The prisoner had "voluntary" addressed the media on Monday, and the United States is now awaiting a response from the North Korean government.
American citizen Kenneth Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges of committing crimes against North Korea in November 2012. The Christian man, known for his warm heart and his passion for the Lord, was arrested for allegedly using his touring business to form groups whose goal was to overthrow the government.
It is believed that Bae's speech to the media in Pyongyang was likely made under duress, and may signal that the country's leadership is willing to release him. Although North Korea has denied that they are trying to use Bae as a bargaining chip, Fox News reports that this might be North Korea's way of reaching out to the United States, with hopes that America will make further efforts - perhaps by way of foreign aid to boost the North Korean economy - to release Bae. According to the Chicago Tribune, the United States is now offering to send Ambassador Robert King in an envoy to bring Bae back home. An anonymous official told Reuters that Washington is awaiting North Korea's response.
"I know for the past 15 months you have made a lot of effort," Bae said to the cameras on Monday - "but now I want to ask you to give me direct assistance - not in words, but with action - and solve my problem." Bae says he believes that he might be released if there were "close cooperation and agreement between the American government and the government of [North Korea]." The prisoner also asked his family and those in the media to stop spreading "vile rumors" about North Korea and releasing materials related to his imprisonment which are not factual.
In a previous video-recorded confession, Bae had admitted to committing crimes against the North Korea regime. Sitting in a room where a heater and a fan were placed within the camera's frame - perhaps done intentionally to suggest humane treatment of prisoners in the camp - Bae said that the North Korean government was not violating human rights in the camp. Although he said he wasn't being worked too hard at the prison, the 45-year-old said his health was deteriorating and pleaded with the United States to help him come home.
In the past, other detainees in North Korea have made similar statements and then revealed upon their release that they had been made to confess to crimes that they had not committed. In December of last year, North Korea released an eighty-five-year-old war veteran who had been taken captive while touring the country. He was freed upon confessing to his participation in the 1950s war and apologizing for his crimes against the North Korean government.
Kenneth Bae's imprisonment has recently received heightened attention since Dennis Rodman's visit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this month for a basketball exhibition game.