Former Washington resident Kenneth Bae gained an important ally on Thursday when President Barack Obama personally called for his release from a North Korean labor camp.
The president mentioned Bae in his remarks during Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast, which can be viewed at about the 16:39 mark in this video from the White House’s YouTube channel:
The Seattle Times has written numerous editorials (including this latest one posted Jan. 26) encouraging the U.S. State Department to help Bae’s family, based in Edmonds and Lynnwood. The 45-year-old American citizen was captured in November 2012 while guiding tourists through North Korea.
Obama’s attention to this issue can only help. On Wednesday, Reuters reports the four last surviving members of Congress to serve in the Korean War wrote a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un asking for Bae’s release on humanitarian grounds.
Hopefully, the North Koreans take notice.
Here’s the transcript of Obama’s remarks, provided by the White House:
And finally, as we build the future we seek, let us never forget those who are persecuted today, among them Americans of faith. We pray for Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary who’s been held in North Korea for 15 months, sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. His family wants him home. And the United States will continue to do everything in our power to secure his release because Kenneth Bae deserves to be free.
Last week, I blogged for Opinion Northwest about Bae’s sister and mother attending the president’s State of the Union address. On Thursday, the family released a gracious statement responding to the president’s remarks. Here’s the full text of what they sent in an email:
Tears sprung to our eyes as we heard the President affirm our family’s pleas and said he would do everything possible to secure my brother’s release. We are grateful to have the commitment of our nation’s highest leader to bringing Kenneth home, which is great reassurance to our weary spirits, now 15 months into Kenneth’s imprisonment in DPRK (North Korea).
We are so encouraged by the President’s remarks. President Obama joins a growing chorus of people from around the world who have advocated for Kenneth publicly or have reached out to us personally with a supportive word.
Yesterday the last surviving members of the U.S. Congress to have served in the Korean War—Rep. Charles Rangel from New York, Rep. John Conyers Jr. from Michigan, Rep. Sam Johnson from Texas and Rep. Howard Coble from North Carolina—sent a letter to DPRK Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, asking him to release Kenneth. We thank them as well, as this movement to bring Kenneth home grows even stronger.
Every day, we receive heart-warming messages of encouragement and prayers from concerned citizens across the country. It is clear that many Americans are invested in this cause to see this fellow American come home to his family, and it gives us hope to continue our advocacy for Kenneth’s freedom.
We hope that President Obama’s remarks help spark further dialogue between the US and the DPRK toward a peaceful resolution for Kenneth’s case. We reiterate our plea to DPRK leaders to grant Kenneth amnesty and allow him to return home to his family. He has admitted his crimes in violation of DPRK laws, has served more than a year in detainment, and continues to struggle with his health. We ask for your mercy to allow Kenneth to come home.