Kenneth Bae: American jailed in North Korea asks US Government to help release him

Kenneth Bae addressed journalists at a press conference in North Korea

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The Independent Online

An American who has been in a North Korean jail for more than a year has appeared before reporters and appealed to the US Government to work to secure his release.

Kenneth Bae made the comments to reporters on Monday at what he said was a press conference held at his own request, in the capital Pynogyang.

"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.

"The vice president of United States said that I was detained here without any reason," Bae said. "And even my younger sister recently told the press that I had not committed any crime and I know that the media reported it.

He said Mr Biden's comments "infuriated the people here enormously. And for this reason, I am in a difficult situation now" and that he will "return to prison".

Mr Bae also apologised and said he committed anti-government acts.

However, he was under guard during the appearance and it is allegedly not unusual for prisoners in North Korea to say after their release that they spoke in similar situations under duress.

He was arrested for the alleged crimes against the state in November 2012 while leading a tour group in the country. North Korea's Supreme Court said he used his tourism business to form groups aimed at overthrowing the government.

Mr Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour and is the longest-serving American detainee in North Korea in recent years.

The 45-year-old’s family members have speculated that he is being held because he is a Christian.

Mr Bae was moved from a labour camp to a hospital last summer due to his poor health. His family say he has diabetes, an enlarged heart, and a back injury that prevents him for standing for more than 30 minutes at a time.

In the press conference Mr Bae expressed hope that the US government will do its best to secure his release.

His plea comes after his sister, Terri Cheung, accused former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman in early January of jeopardising her brother's release.

During an interview in America, Mr Rodman said he would not discuss Mr Bae’s release with the leaders of North Korea when he staged an exhibition basketball game for leader Kim Jong Un’s birthday.

He also implied that Mr Bae may be responsible for his incarceration.

Mr Rodman later apologised and said he had been drinking before the interview.

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Bae was born in South Korea and moved to the US in 1985 with his parents and sister.

Before his arrest, Mr Bae lived in China for seven years with his wife and stepdaughter where he ran a tour business and led 18 legal trips to North Korea, his sister said.

Additional reporting by Associated Press