Frankly, not many media outlets or people seem to care about Kenneth Bae, the American sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in a North Korean prison for alleged “hostile acts” against the state. Bill Richardson is an exception and the highest-profile American since former NBA star Dennis Rodman to call for an “unorthodox” approach to getting the Lynnwood tour operator back home with his family.
Last week, the former governor of New Mexico and one of the country’s foremost experts on North Korea appealed for journalists to keep attention on Bae, a tour operator who has been detained since last November. CNN recently obtained video with a plea from Bae for help, but the video has not gained much traction with the public.
During remarks at a Thursday Asia Society event called “Searching for Peace with North Korea,” Richardson said, “Somehow, the cries for his release, humanitarian release has not been as strong as other detainees.”
Watch the full event below in video provided by the Asia Society. For the parts about Kenneth Bae, forward to about 6:00 and 1:10:30 in the video.
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Richardson said the North Koreans are under the leadership of a new dictator, Kim Jong Un. Unlike similar circumstances in the past, he said it does not appear high-profile visitors from the “C-team” (including himself) or “A-team”(like former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter) would help.
“This time, there seems to be a view that the North Koreans are sending. A signal we don’t like Americans coming in and we’ve told you that they shouldn’t come in. And if they continue coming in, we’re not going to let them go,” Richardson surmised. “I think that’s a possible change, but again— who knows.”
Asked about other diplomacy matters with North Korea during a Q&A session, Richardson didn’t let up. He repeated his call: “I don’t want you all to forget about Kenneth Bae. There’s an American here. He’s there. He’s a prisoner. You know who I think is the only person who can get him out? Dennis Rodman.”
The crowd chuckled. “No, I’m serious,” Richardson responded. The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said it would take “something unorthodox” to get Bae out.
“Hopefully it’ll be resolved because this man deserves to come home,” he said.