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Topic: kenneth bae
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October 10, 2013 at 4:59 PM
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.
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: (more…)
September 13, 2013 at 6:50 AM
Does some good news about the reopening of a North Korean industrial park portend very good news for an American detained since November 2012?
Call it structural optimism, but I think in the world of diplomacy the bits and pieces of events, relationships and outcomes can add up to change. The sum of the parts is vital.
Bae, a former Lynnwood resident, was detained by North Korea when a tour group he was leading somehow offended the sensibilities of local authorities.
Bae’s health has deteriorated in custody. Formal and informal efforts on his behalf have not yielded his freedom. One of his presumed advocates has been former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who has a big fan in North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. After Rodman’s latest visit he was all grumpy with the media that hounded him about what he might have said on Bae’s behalf. I found Rodman’s reticence to talk about his private chats encouraging. He had received good counsel to keep his mouth shut.
Now the regime in Pyongyang and the government in South Korea have announced the Kaesong Industrial Complex will reopen on Sept. 16th. The zone, just across the demilitarized border in North Korea, is home to more than 120 South Korean factories, and employs more than 50,000 North Korean workers, who were pulled off the job last April.
A North Korean nuclear test in February had soured relations on the peninsula. The tension was cinched up by South Korean and U.S. military exercises. The closure of Kaesong is hard on both economies, but North Korea has virtually no other source of income.
The deal that reopened Kaesong provides for the industrial zone to continue working despite future political tensions. And the first reunion of families separated by the 60-year-old Korean War border in three years.
Does this all create a feel-good moment that benefits the release of Kenneth Bae? I hope so and I believe so. All sides use the leverage available to them, and look for opportunities to generate pragmatic goodwill. Reopening Kaesong might well translate into good news for Bae and his loved ones.
September 13, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Updated Sept. 16 at 4:45 p.m.: Yikes. Kenneth Bae’s college friend, Bobby Lee of Portland, spoke out over the weekend against Dennis Rodman. He asked the Bae family to email the following statement:
Dennis Rodman tweeted to the world that he would step up and bring American citizen Kenneth Bae back home from a North Korean prison. Rodman claimed that Obama couldn’t do it. But he could. Then he folded like a cheap tent.
“Guess what? That’s not my job to ask about Bae,” an angry Rodman said to the media after smoking cigars with the North Korean leader Kim Jung Un. How nice.
What really happened? Rodman used Bae’s misfortune to elevate his eroding Hollywood brand. He took advantage of Bae’s setback to stage his own comeback. All the free press he received around the world would make Justin Bieber blush. And he is the only one laughing all the way to the bank while Bae’s family and friends—and the American people—are left heartbroken.
Rodman says he wants to introduce North Koreans to the world. North Koreans will take one look at him and ask, “what planet is this guy from?” We can’t think of a better argument for Kim Jung Un’s policies of complete isolation from the rest of the world than Dennis Rodman.
Rodman, there’s a real person’s life at stake. You’ve gone too far.
They call Rodman the Worm. Starting today, I ask the American people to start calling Rodman by his new nickname: Cheap Tent.
Bobby Lee, Portland, Oregon
Kenneth Bae’s Old College Buddy from University of Oregon
Dennis Rodman returned from his second tour of North Korea last weekend without imprisoned American Kenneth Bae. He claims he didn’t even try to broach the subject with his friend, Kim Jong Un.
His callous brush-off of Bae’s detention since November 2012 is disappointing on many levels.
First, it shines a light on our sick celebrity culture and the sycophants who feed off it. Who is handling Rodman’s image and business matters? This man needs a new public relations team that can explain to him the basics of North Korea’s human rights record and protect him from getting bamboozled by a ruthless regime.
In his public statements so far, Rodman sounds utterly clueless to the suffering of North Korean citizens. There’s a photo of him smoking a cigar and laughing with Kim. Rodman claims he got to hold the dear leader’s newborn daughter.
As long as he doesn’t see the bad stuff, he doesn’t seem to care. (Read this harrowing CNN report comparing Rodman’s delusional statements to the realities on the ground. Or check out this write-up in The Independent on the Kim regime’s systematic use of torture and executions inside North Korea’s prison system.)
For months, our editorial board has focused attention on Kenneth Bae, the American who was detained by North Korean officials in November 2012. His sister, Terri Chung, wrote this powerful July 29 guest column.
Known for holding strong Christian views, Bae was working as a tour operator when he was captured. The details surrounding his arrest and conviction remain unclear. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. Last we heard, Bae was transferred to a hospital after suffering health problems and lost 50 pounds in detention. The U.S. State Department must continue its efforts to seek amnesty for him.
Unlike previous situations involving American detainees, attempts by several high-profile figures to contact Bae and bring him home have failed. Former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt couldn’t do it. U.S. Envoy Robert King was invited to the country — then uninvited. Regardless of his bizarre antics, Rodman seemed like the best hope for progress after he posted this tweet last May in response to my blog post four days earlier:
I'm calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him "Kim", to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose.
— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) May 7, 2013
During an Aug. 29 interview with HuffPost Live, Rodman admitted he didn’t write that tweet himself. Someone on his team did. Of course, that didn’t stop him from spending the summer gaining notoriety and joking about his savior status, even landing the cover of Sports Illustrated in July and reiterating his desire to try to normalize relations and free Bae.
September 5, 2013 at 7:39 AM
Dennis Rodman landed in North Korea Tuesday and is reportedly backpedaling on his earlier promises to personally ask his friend, Kim Jong Un, to free American prisoner and former Lynnwood resident Kenneth Bae.
Pay no attention to Rodman’s public statements so far. Judge his actions after he returns. Who can blame him for saying he’s not in North Korea to save Bae? Look at what happened to the U.S. envoy Robert King, who explicitly stated he was visiting Pyongyang to secure Bae’s release. The regime told him not to come.
Rodman was smart to say he was just entering North Korea to have some fun with Kim. They let him in, right?
For the sake of Bae’s family and concerns over his declining health, I still view Rodman’s visit as the best chance right now to get Kenneth Bae home to his family.
I can only hope Rodman is smart enough to know he needs to work the back channels. Shower Kim Jong Un with old memories of playing basketball with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Make the young ruler laugh. Find some common ground with him. Then maybe slide in that question about Bae’s fate. Ask about his health. Tell Kim that Bae has a family — parents, sister, wife and three kids — who need him home.
Professional basketball’s most flamboyant personality has an obligation to help a fellow American in need. He’s been building up to this moment for months, anyway, even saying he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. I know the D.P.R.K. ain’t the NBA, but he’s in a position to do some serious good.
Just do it, Dennis. Don’t forget Kenneth Bae. You’re no statesman, but we know you have it in you to ask a friend for a favor.
August 30, 2013 at 12:05 PM
The State Department must continue its efforts to understand why North Korean officials rescinded an invitation to a top U.S. diplomat who was planning to ask for the release of American detainee Kenneth Bae. (I wrote about that welcome development in a previous Opinion NW blog post.)
According to an Associated Press news report in The Seattle Times:
“We have sought clarification from the DPRK about its decision and have made every effort so that Ambassador King’s trip could continue as planned or take place at a later date,” [Department spokeswoman Marie] Harf said in a statement, referring to the country’s formal title of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“We remain gravely concerned about Mr. Bae’s health and we continue to urge the DPRK authorities to grant Mr. Bae special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds,” Harf said.
Bob King, the Obama administration’s special envoy for North Korean human rights, was scheduled to fly into Pyongyang Friday. As our editorial board pointed out in an editorial Tuesday, this rare visit was an “opportunity to save a man’s life and ease tensions between the two countries following Pyongyang’s defiant efforts to build its nuclear program.”
Friday’s news is disheartening to us, as well as to Bae’s family in Lynnwood, Wash. His sister, Terri Chung, released the following statement Friday morning:
“Our family is disappointed by the news that the special envoy is unable to go to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to bring Kenneth home at this time. We hold on to faith that DPRK and US diplomats will resume talks soon, ultimately leading to my brother being released.
It has been 301 days since Kenneth has been detained. With every day, we continue to pray. We appreciate the work that the State Department and the Obama administration have been doing and have pledged to do for Kenneth’s release. We miss Kenneth and remain concerned about his health.
We are not giving up hope for a peaceful and timely resolution.” (more…)
August 27, 2013 at 5:24 PM
U.S. State Department officials are finally making a public entreaty to North Korea for the release of Kenneth Bae, the Lynnwood man who has been detained in North Korea since November 2012.
The agency released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:
At the invitation of the D.P.R.K. government, Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues Ambassador Robert King will travel to Pyongyang August 30 on a humanitarian mission focused on securing the release of U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae.
Mr. Bae was arrested in the D.P.R.K. in November 2012 and was convicted April 30 by the D.P.R.K. Supreme Court of committing hostile acts against North Korea. As the U.S. Government has on a number of occasions since the April 30 verdict, Ambassador King will request the D.P.R.K. pardon Mr. Bae and grant him special amnesty on humanitarian grounds so that he can be reunited with his family and seek medical treatment.
The Associated Press reports King is the first senior U.S. official to visit the reclusive nation in two years. He is expected to fly to North Korea this Friday and return on Saturday.
The North Koreans have not agreed to free the American tour operator and missionary, but King is traveling at the regime’s invitation. View that as a promising sign.
Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, has made the rounds on CNN and CBS. On July 29, she penned a guest column for The Seattle Times opinion section. The family held a vigil just two weeks ago at Quest Church in Seattle, which I wrote about in our Opinion Northwest blog. She says in recent months her brother has lost 50 pounds and was transferred from a prison camp to a hospital for treatment.
Over the course of Kenneth Bae’s detention and conviction for “hostile acts” against the regime, our editorial board has worked to keep his name in the headlines. Even NBA Hall of Fame member (and self-proclaimed “friend for life” of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un) Dennis Rodman and former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson took up the cause. (Here is our blog post about Rodman’s effort and our post about Richardson’s work.) More recently U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she had begun to pressure Secretary of State John Kerry to resolve the matter quickly. Now the White House and U.S. State Department are taking action. (more…)
August 9, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The Edmonds and Lynnwood-based family of detained American Kenneth Bae is holding a vigil Saturday evening in Seattle to pray for his release from a North Korean labor camp. A fresh surge of media coverage (including this Aug. 8 Associated Press news report in The Seattle Times) should prompt our local community to pay attention and take action.
Bae was detained more than nine months ago after leading a group of tourists across the border from China. He is accused of committing hostile acts against the country, though specific details of his arrest and alleged crimes are scant. No other American in recent years has spent more time in the reclusive regime’s prison system, especially following Kim Jong Un’s ascent to the head of state.
ICYMI: Terri Chung, Bae’s sister, painted a human picture of her brother in this July 29 Seattle Times guest column. As I pointed out in this July 22 Opinion NW blog post, our editorial board has published numerous editorials and blog posts since last December, from arguing for answers to calling for his release on humanitarian grounds. Chung argues Bae’s health is rapidly deteriorating — and the North Koreans seem “open to communication.”
The family is desperate for help.
So what can you do? Several things: (more…)
July 22, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The strange dearth of media coverage on American prisoner Kenneth Bae got a little boost over the weekend after The New York Times’ Rick Gladstone wrote this July 19 news story indicating the North Koreans may be ready to negotiate for Bae’s release from a hard labor camp.
Diplomats who have dealt with North Korea said the unspoken message in both the video and the letters was that the North Korean authorities wanted to see more publicity about Mr. Bae as part of their broader effort to seek direct contact with the United States government.
Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, lives in Edmonds. In a phone conversation with me last Friday, she reiterated her family’s concerns over the Washington native’s health after viewing this July 3 prison video obtained by CNN.
“Even though he’s being treated humanely, his health is clearly deteriorating,” she said. “He’s been there for eight-and-a-half months and we need to do more to get him out.” (more…)
July 15, 2013 at 6:00 AM
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.
July 3, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Update 3:01 p.m.:
CNN has obtained exclusive video from Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean organization, showing Kenneth Bae’s first interview from a hard labor camp where he is serving a 15-year sentence for “hostile acts” against the country. In the video, Bae speaks in Korean. CNN translated his comments as follows:
“Although my health is not good, I am being patient and coping well,” Bae said. “And I hope that with the help of the North Korean government and the United States, I will be released soon.”
Kneeling on the ground and wearing a prison uniform, a visibly thinner Bae revealed July 4 is his father’s 70th birthday.
Also, I just learned via Twitter (h/t @randallito) about this change.org petition by Jonathan Bae, who identifies himself as Kenneth Bae’s son. The petition calls on President Barack Obama to send a delegation to North Korea to secure Bae’s release.
We can’t seem to get enough of The Worm and his worldly ways. If NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman can use his celebrity to smooth relations with North Korea and secure the release of Lynnwood’s Kenneth Bae during his August trip back to the land of Kim Jung Un— then I say he deserves some serious props for diplomacy.
Of course, Rodman wants more. Have you seen him on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated?
According to this July 2 preview story by SI correspondent Ben Golliver, the former Chicago Bull says he deserves to be considered for a Nobel Peace Prize after his recent foray into North Korea with a crew from Vice Media. Rodman’s visit was the subject of Vice on HBO’s season finale. (I’ve embedded a fascinating four-minute clip at the end of this post.)
From Golliver’s write-up:
Rodman plans to return to North Korea in August. “I’m just gonna chill, play some basketball and maybe go on vacation with Kim and his family,” Rodman says. “I’ve called on the Supreme Leader to do me a solid by releasing Kenneth Bae.” The Korean-American missionary was recently sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges that he tried to topple the North Korean regime. He’d organized tours into the isolated state.
“My mission is to break the ice between hostile countries,” Rodman says. “Why it’s been left to me to smooth things over, I don’t know. Dennis Rodman, of all people. Keeping us safe is really not my job; it’s the black guy’s [Obama's] job. But I’ll tell you this: If I don’t finish in the top three for the next Nobel Peace Prize, something’s seriously wrong.”
It’s great to see Rodman hasn’t forgotten about Kenneth Bae.