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
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn