US envoy attempts to negotiate release of American missionary held in North Korea
Nikhil Kumar is The Independent's New York correspondent. He was formerly assistant editor on the foreign desk and has also done a variety of jobs on the city desk, where he wrote about markets, commodities and other business and economics topics.
Wednesday 28 August 2013
A special US government envoy will travel to North Korea on Friday to seek the release of Kenneth Bae, the American Christian missionary and former tour operator sentenced to 15 years hard labour by the secretive state.
Detained last November while leading a tour in the country, he was found guilty of “hostile acts” and sentenced in April, with a Supreme Court spokesman later claiming to the state news agency that he had “set up plot-breeding bases in different places of China for the purpose of toppling the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] government from 2006 to October 2012 out of distrust and enmity toward the DPRK”. The US has repeatedly called for Mr Bae’s release on humanitarian grounds, citing the 45-year-old’s health problems, including diabetes.
Now, the Obama administration’s special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, Robert King, will travel to the country to renew the US request for Mr Bae’s release.
Speaking to reporters during a stopover in Tokyo, Mr King said that while it wasn’t certain that Mr Bae would be freed, he was “going to make to an appeal”. He added: “He has health problems and we’re hopeful we will be able to make progress on that.”
The trip will be the first public visit to the country headed by Kim Jong-un, the son of the late Kim Jong-il, by a US government official in over two years. In the recent past, North Korea has usually released Americans in its custody without forcing them to serve their full prison terms. Among those who have travelled to the country to secure the release of incarcerated Americans are the former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
Mr King himself secured the release of Eddie Jun, a Korean-American from California detained on unspecified charges, during his last visit to the country in 2011 to survey the food situation.
Earlier this month, Mr Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, said he had been shifted from a labour camp to a hospital on account of his ill health. “The last three months in the labour camp have certainly been very trying on both his mental and physical health,” she told CNN. “He’s also under a tremendous amount of stress.”
Back in July, Mr Bae sought the assistance of the US in securing his release in an interview with a Japanese newspaper. “Although my health is not good, I am being patient and coping well,” he said. “And I hope that with the help of the North Korean government and the United States, I will be released soon.”
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
- 5 SAG Awards: Fake applause track interrupts Reese Witherspoon
Rowan Atkinson to sell £10 million McLaren 'supercar' he crashed into a tree and a lamppost
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...
£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...