North Korea Warns Christian Missionary Kenneth Bae to Stop 'Babbling' About Time in Prison - or Face Consequences

( [email protected] ) Jun 21, 2016 11:35 AM EDT
North Korean officials have warned Christian missionary Kenneth Bae to stop divulging information regarding his time in prison - or face severe consequences.
Kenneth Bae speaks upon returning from North Korea during a news conference at U.S. Air Force Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Fort Lewis, Washington, United States on November 8, 2014. REUTERS/David Ryder/File Photo

North Korean officials have warned Christian missionary Kenneth Bae to stop divulging information regarding his time in prison - or face severe consequences.

"As long as Kenneth Bae continues his babbling, we will not proceed with any compromise or negotiations with the United States on the subject of American criminals, and there will certainly not be any such thing as humanitarian action," the KCNA news agency said, according to US News.

"If Bae continues, US criminals held in our country will be in the pitiful state of never being able to set foot in their homeland once again".

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency described Bae as a "filthy object" and a "Judas" who betrayed the North's humanitarian gesture, the Seattle Times notes.

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.

He was leading a tour when he was arrested in November 2012, and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after the North Korean government claimed he was part of a Christian plot of overthrow the regime.

The pastor was sent to a camp for foreign detainees where about 30 guards kept watch over him as their sole prisoner. Bae was released on November 2014, after a 735-day prison, making him the longest held US citizen in North Korea since the Korean War.

Since his release, Bae has spoken publicly about his experience and released a book, Not Forgotten, in which he reveals he was accused of trying to overthrow the North Korean government through his Christian worship and by spreading Western ideas. He has also credited the US government and God for his release - not Pyongyang.

"One thing I want people to take away from reading the book is God's faithfulness," Bae told CNN last month. "After I was released, I was reminded that God has not forgotten the people of North Korea."

Currently, Pyongyang is holding two US citizens, both of whom it has tried and sentenced to hard labor.

In March, Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old student of the University of Virginia, was sentenced to 15 years' hard labor for trying to steal a propaganda banner bearing the name of former leader Kim Jong Il.

In April, a North Korean court convicted Korean-American missionary Kim Dong Chul of crimes against the state and sentenced him to 10 years' hard labor.

Christian groups say there are at least another 100,000 Christians trapped in the country's harsh prison camps, where prisoners face torture, forced labor and possible execution. In North Korea, practicing Christianity is illegal; in fact, for the 14th consecutive year, the country topped Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where believers face the most persecution.