Mother of American man detained in North Korea for 11 months arrives to visit him

 

An American man detained in North Korea for the past 11 months has told his mother in their first meeting since his detention that his health is improving but is still not good, according to a Japanese media report Friday.

Myunghee Bae, who has been allowed into North Korea to see her son, Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary, told Japan's Kyodo News agency that his health has been improving since he was transferred to a hospital from a prison where he was serving a sentence of 15 years' hard labor.

Myunghee Bae met with her son on Friday at the hospital, Kyodo said. The report from Pyongyang did not give any further details, but said the two may be allowed to meet again before she leaves the country.

Kenneth Bae, a 45-year-old tour operator and Christian missionary, was arrested last November while leading a group of tourists in the northeastern region of Rason in North Korea. Bae is a U.S. citizen but had been living in China for the past seven years.

He was transferred over the summer from a prison camp, where he largely farmed vegetables, to the hospital because he had lost more than 50 pounds (23 kilograms). He also suffers from diabetes, an enlarged heart, liver problems and back pain, his family has said.

According to a Japan-based media outlet affiliated with North Korea, Bae's mother was met at the airport Thursday by the Swedish ambassador, who serves as a liaison for U.S. matters in North Korea because the U.S. does not have an embassy there. That report, in the Choson Sinbo, said she was scheduled to stay in Pyongyang for five days.

“I came because I am worried that my son's health has worsened,” the Choson Sinbo quoted her as saying at the airport. “I really wanted to see my son.”

She said her visit had been approved by the U.S. government.

In a video statement before she left, Myunghee Bae said her heart “was broken into pieces” when a prison interview with her son surfaced in July, because he looked so different.

“I want to see him and comfort him and hold him in person,” she said. “I miss him so much.”

Bae is at least the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The others eventually were allowed to leave without serving out their terms, some after prominent Americans, including former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, visited North Korea.

Analysts suggest North Korea has used detained Americans as bargaining chips in a standoff with the United States, which long has pressed Pyongyang to abandon a nuclear program estimated to have a handful of crude atomic weapons.

Recent attempts by the U.S. government to free Bae have come up short. In late August, North Korea rescinded its invitation for a senior U.S. envoy to travel to Pyongyang to seek his release.

Bae, a father of three, was born in South Korea and immigrated to the U.S. with his parents and sister in 1985. He later moved to China, and a couple of years ago he began leading small tour groups, mostly of American and Canadian citizens. He led the groups into a “special economic zone” designed to encourage commerce in Rason.

Several years ago, Bae gave a sermon in which he advocated bringing Americans to North Korea for a mass prayer session to bring about the reunification of North and South Korea.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect