This photo of Kenneth Bae greeting his mother, Myunghee Bae, speaks a million words.
On the first anniversary of her son’s arrest on Nov. 3, 2012, the elder Bae wrote a Seattle Times guest column outlining her anguish over his imprisonment. Considering reports he had been hospitalized at least twice for health problems, Bae appeared robust Saturday night as he stepped off the plane at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
How sweet to witness this peaceful outcome for the Bae family. Imagine what these last two years have been like for them; not knowing when, whether and in what condition their loved one would be released by arguably the most unpredictable and secretive regime in the world.
Kenneth Bae’s return to the United States was so unexpected, his wife and children were not able to fly to Washington in time to greet him. Sister Terri Chung says this Thanksgiving will be extra special.
The family worked hard behind the scenes and in the public eye to ensure he would not be forgotten. Chung deserves special recognition for being the main spokesperson and heart of the operation.
The Seattle Times and other news organizations tracked Bae’s journey home throughout the weekend. The family is clearly grateful for his release, which The Seattle Times editorial board first advocated for on Dec. 31, 2012. Our latest editorial was published on Oct. 24, 2014. Over the last two years, Bae’s name went in and out of the headlines. At one point in 2013, the former NBA player Dennis Rodman tried to get involved. President Obama prayed for his release. North Korea freed two other American detainees in December 2013 and last month. In the end, a top-secret visit to Pyongyang from the nation’s top spy tipped the scales and made all the difference for Bae and yet another imprisoned American, Matthew Todd Miller, who was released with him.
There are still many lessons to learn from Bae’s ordeal. In time, he might have insight to share into life inside North Korea’s notorious prison system. The release of all known American prisoners now clears the way for the U.S. to determine the next steps in its troubled relationship with the reclusive country.
For now, Bae needs time to recover and to enjoy his newfound freedom.