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October 10, 2013 at 4:59 PM

North Korea should allow prison visits for Kenneth Bae’s mother

Myunghee Bae couldn’t wait any longer. On Wednesday, the 68-year-old mother of imprisoned American Kenneth Bae traveled to Pyongyang on her own.

“She just wanted to see her son,” says Terri Chung, Bae’s sister in Edmonds, Snohomish County.

Terri Chung, left, and her mother, Myunghee Bae, right, look at a letter sent from their brother and son, Kenneth Bae, as they sit in Bae's home Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, in Lynnwood, Wash. Kenneth Bae, an American tour operator and Christian missionary, has been detained in North Korea since being arrested in November, 2012, and his family is renewing calls for his release as concerns about his health increase. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Terri Chung, left, and her mother, Myunghee Bae, right, look at a letter sent from their brother and son, Kenneth Bae, as they sit in Bae’s home on Aug. 7 in Lynnwood, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

What makes this trip remarkable is that the North Koreans granted Bae permission to enter the country for five days. If they allow prison visits, she will be the first American to see Kenneth Bae since he was detained on Nov. 3, 2012. Last spring, the government sentenced the former tour operator to 15 years of hard labor for “hostile acts” against the regime. In August, Bae was hospitalized after losing nearly 50 pounds and suffering from complications due to an enlarged heart and diabetes.

On Thursday, the family released this video message, recorded before Myunghee left the U.S.:

Again, this is a unique situation following several failed attempts by much higher-profile figures to secure Bae’s release on humanitarian grounds. So far, the North Koreans have rebuffed various pleas from the U.S. State Department, Swedish diplomats, former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and former NBA player Dennis Rodman (via Twitter).

We shouldn’t expect North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un to give in to American demands, but I hope he’ll at least listen to a mother’s plea for her son’s safety. Let her see him. Better yet, let her bring Kenneth Bae home.

Here’s Myunghee Bae’s official statement:

I am on my way to visit my son, Kenneth Bae, in the DPRK. I am grateful to the DPRK authorities for granting this visit.

It’s hard to describe the agony of the past year since my son has been imprisoned in the DPRK. I spend every day thinking about him and praying for his homecoming. I miss him so much! And I worry endlessly about his health and want to see and check his condition with my own eyes.

I don’t really know what to expect for my trip. All I know is that I want to see my son.

Thank you for all the prayers and support. Please keep praying for us and spreading the word about Kenneth’s plight.

Thank you.

Comments | Topics: diplomacy, kenneth bae, north korea


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