Korean-American Missionary Kenneth Bae Imprisoned in North Korea Asks For Prayer, U.S. Assistance

( [email protected] ) Sep 01, 2014 05:43 PM EDT

A Korean-American missionary imprisoned in North Korea recently spoke out about his situation and pleaded for prayer and U.S. help in an interview with CNN.

On Monday, Kenneth Bae, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence after the North Korean government claimed he was part of a Christian plot to overthrow the regime, told CNN's Will Ripley that he hopes a U.S. representative to come to North Korea to make a direct appeal for his release.

"I've been asking the American government to act on getting me released here, and I believe that a special envoy needs to come to in order to resolve the situation that I am in right now. I do ask the United States government to send an envoy as soon as possible because I think that it is the only hope I have right now to go home and be reunited with my family."

Bae, 46, said his health has deteriorated at the labor camp where he works eight hours a day, as he suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney stones.

"I've been going back and forth between hospital and to the labor camp for the last year and a half," Bae stated

"My hands are numb and tingling, and it's difficult sleeping at night, and I was working in the field every day," he continued.

However, despite what he called "hard labor," Bae said he has been treated "as humanely as possible," and encourages his family and friends to continue praying for him.

"Right now what I can say to my friends and family is, continue to pray for me," he said.

Bae, who has three children, was born in South Korea and immigrated to the U.S. with his parents and sister in 1985. He had been living in China as a Christian missionary for about seven years before his arrest in 2009. Within the last few years, he began leading small tour groups, mostly of American and Canadian citizens, into a "special economic zone" designed to encourage commerce in northeastern North Korea.

Terri Chung, Bae's sister, told CNN on Monday the video was "really difficult to watch" because her brother is usually "full of life and very cheerful. ... It is clear from the video that he is under a lot of stress. And he talks about his health failing and being in complete isolation for almost two years. And it is devastating for our family to see that on TV."

However, she told "New Day" that "I think he's doing the best he can..Two years of being isolated and working in a labor camp, I know it is not easy. So I think you can see it is taking a toll both physically and mentally."

She also said that the U.S. government has been working "behind the scenes to try to procure his release, and we are once again reiterating our thanks, but also too pleading with our government to continue their efforts to secure his release immediately."

In February, U.S. President Barack Obama urged the nation to pray for Bae and said that the U.S. is working toward his freedom.

"We pray for Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary who has been held in North Korea for 15 months," Obama said. "His family wants him home, and the United States will continue to do everything in our power to secure his release because Kenneth Bae deserves to be free."