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Topic: north korea

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February 11, 2014 at 8:27 AM

North Korea claims Kenneth Bae not a political pawn? Prove it

North Korean officials said months ago that American prisoner Kenneth Bae would not be used as a political pawn. Their latest action suggests they’ve changed their mind.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki announced Sunday that North Korean officials had rescinded a second invitation for a special American envoy to fly to Pyongyang to meet with Bae. According to this Associated Press news story, the cancellation “signals an apparent protest of upcoming annual military drills between Washington and Seoul and an alleged mobilization of U.S. nuclear-capable B-52 bombers during training near the Korean Peninsula. North Korea calls the planned drills a rehearsal for invasion, a claim the allies deny.”

North Korean leaders would be wise to let Bae — imprisoned for 15 months now — return to his family before his health deteriorates any further. Bae is not a public official or representative of the U.S. government. He entered the country numerous times as a tour operator before he was detained in November 2012. He is a father, husband, son and brother, and a man of faith who has apologized (possibly under duress) to the North Korean regime for whatever crimes they claim he committed.

The Seattle Times editorial board has published numerous editorials in support of a humanitarian release for Bae. Below is video of CNN’s social media campaign, launched last Friday, to raise awareness about Bae’s plight.

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The former Lynnwood resident’s family says he has been transferred from a hospital back into a labor camp to  continue a 15-year sentence. Here’s an excerpt of their latest public statement:

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Comments | Topics: kenneth bae, north korea, state department

February 7, 2014 at 6:06 AM

President Obama says a prayer for Kenneth Bae

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.

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Comments | More in Video | Topics: kenneth bae, north korea, Obama

January 30, 2014 at 6:07 AM

Kenneth Bae’s family attends SOTU, seeks more help

Good on Washington’s congressional delegates for meeting this week with Kenneth Bae’s family. Here’s a link to the editorial board’s Monday editorial calling on officials in D.C. to keep up their efforts to help free the former Lynnwood resident and American tour operator from a North Korean prison, where he has been locked for nearly 15 months.

Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, his mother, Myunghee Bae and his son, Jonathan Bae, have spent the last several days raising awareness of Bae’s plight in New York City and in the nation’s capitol. On Tuesday, Chung and the elder Bae attended President Obama’s State of the Union address as the guests of U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, and U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y.

If you’re just learning about Bae’s case, watch Chung talk about her brother with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell below:

[do action="custom_iframe" url="http://player.theplatform.com/p/2E2eJC/EmbeddedOffSite?guid=n_mitchell_bae_140127" width="630" height="500" scrolling=""/]

On Tuesday, the family met for the first time with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. (Scroll down to read their official statement after the talk.) One day later, both Larsen and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sent press releases to the media promising they will continue to advocate on the family’s behalf. Murray said she will keep pressuring top U.S. State Department officials “to engage the North Korean government directly and bring Mr. Bae back to the United States.”

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Comments | Topics: congress, kenneth bae, north korea

January 16, 2014 at 6:15 AM

As Kenneth Bae remains imprisoned, PBS ‘Frontline’ exposes real North Korea

If you want to get a real sense of life inside North Korea, stop looking at the photos of Dennis Rodman’s ill-advised trip earlier this month to Pyongyang to celebrate Kim Jong Un’s birthday.

Instead, watch the latest “Frontline” from PBS called “Secret State of North Korea.” Here’s the trailer:

Director Jim Jones worked with journalists to obtain grainy, sometimes-horrifying video from inside the country. Glimpses of daily life there show mass oppression, orphaned children, fake luxury storefronts, and over-the-top efforts to exalt Kim’s image.

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Comments | More in Video | Topics: frontline, kenneth bae, north korea

January 13, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Forget Dennis Rodman’s tearful apology, shift attention to Kenneth Bae

A defiant and visibly emotional Dennis Rodman faced a throng of reporters after landing in Beijing over the weekend.

Watch the CNN video below:

[do action="custom_iframe" url="http://www.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/world/2014/01/13/penhaul-china-rodmans-tearful-return.cnn" width="630" height="380" scrolling=""/]

Regardless of his tearful non-apology apology, the former NBA player deserves to stay atop the “loser of the week” list a while longer. That’s what he gets for throwing fellow American Kenneth Bae under the bus. In a ridiculous CNN interview last week, Rodman suggested Bae deserved his 15-year sentence in a North Korean labor camp. Oh, that was just a drunken rant, he later said in a written statement, spurred on by the stress of realizing he’s the only guy in the room defending a brutal dictator.

The Worm’s style of “basketball diplomacy” is about as bad as his attempt to channel Marilyn Monroe’s rendition of the “Happy Birthday” song. But at least the collapse of his latest goodwill efforts will remind the world that Kenneth Bae is experiencing serious health complications under the watch of Kim Jong Un’s prison guards.

Jack Ohman/Op Art

Jack Ohman/Op Art

Lucky for Rodman, Bae’s family in Washington state issued a statement last Thursday accepting his apology:

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Comments | Topics: Dennis Rodman, diplomacy, kenneth bae

January 8, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Kenneth Bae’s sister calls Dennis Rodman’s comments ‘appalling’

Fresh off her appearance on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360″ Tuesday evening, Terri Chung continued to express frustration over Dennis Rodman’s latest comments about Kenneth Bae, her imprisoned brother in North Korea.

Terri Chung holds a letter sent from her brother, Kenneth Bae, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, in Lynnwood, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Terri Chung holds up a photo of her brother, Kenneth Bae, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, in Lynnwood, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

In a phone interview afterward, Chung said she was awakened at 4 a.m. to the news of Rodman’s meltdown during his morning appearance with CNN’s Chris Cuomo. (I wrote about that in this Opinion NW blog post.)

“I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe it. It’s one thing for him to say he’s not a diplomat that he’s not going to advocate for Kenneth Bae. He’s refused to help. That’s his choice,” she said. “But then he throws these accusations at Kenneth when he clearly has no clue what he’s talking about. It was appalling and beyond me.”

This 2011 file family photo provided by Terri Chung shows Kenneth Bae. Bae, the latest of several Americans jailed by North Korea in recent years, has already waited longer for his freedom than any of the others had to. But as his health deteriorates, Washington and Pyongyang appear unable to negotiate, each wary of giving concessions to the other. (AP Photo/Courtesy Terri Chung, File)

This 2011 file family photo provided by Terri Chung shows Kenneth Bae.  (AP Photo/Courtesy Terri Chung, File)

Chung said the recent news of political purges and executions in Pyongyang has elevated her concerns for her brother’s safety. The family was able to speak to him on the phone Dec. 29. The 45-year-old tour operator told them he remains hospitalized with severe back problems. Chung says Bae spoke to his children for the first time since his detainment began in November 2012.

“He misses them and he wants to come home,” she said. “I just don’t want Kenneth to be forgotten. And I also don’t want Kenneth to be used as a media story. This isn’t some game. Dennis Rodman can play all the publicity stunts he wants with his own self, but this isn’t a game. This is someone’s life, a father of three who deserves to come home.”

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Comments | Topics: bill richardson, cnn, david stern

December 20, 2013 at 6:05 AM

Dennis Rodman, please don’t forget Kenneth Bae

Dennis Rodman’s third trip to Pyongyang this year should be more than just another publicity stunt. The fact remains: no other American has had this level or frequency of access to the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Once again, we have to hope that in between coaching North Korean basketball players for Kim’s Jan. 8 birthday invitational, Rodman will bend the supreme leader’s ear and mention Kenneth Bae’s name.

Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman walks with Vice Minister of North Korea's Sports Ministry, Son Kwang Ho, as Rodman arrives at the international airport in Pyongyang, North Korea on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman walks with Vice Minister of North Korea’s Sports Ministry, Son Kwang Ho, as Rodman arrives at the international airport in Pyongyang, North Korea on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

Make this “sports diplomacy” outing mean something real.

According to a CBS News report, Rodman was quoted in Beijing on Thursday saying, “I know (Kim) is waiting for me to come back. So hopefully we will have some conversation about some things that’s going to help the world.”

Help the world? How about starting with one guy: Kenneth Bae. If Rodman has a chance to ask for Bae’s humanitarian release, he should take it.

The former Washington resident and tour operator has been imprisoned for more than one year— longer than any other American in recent memory. The details of his alleged crimes have never been fully released by the secretive regime, other than to accuse Bae of “hostile acts” and trying to topple the government. The regime sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor. He was hospitalized over the summer.

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Comments | Topics: Dennis Rodman, diplomacy, kenneth bae

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:

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Comments | Topics: diplomacy, kenneth bae, north korea

September 13, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Dennis Rodman regrettably chose Kim Jong Un over Kenneth Bae

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

Original story:

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.

Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman speaks to the media during a news conference in New York, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman speaks to the media during a news conference in New York, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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.)

This 2011 file family photo provided by Terri Chung shows Kenneth Bae. Bae, the latest of several Americans jailed by North Korea in recent years, has already waited longer for his freedom than any of the others had to. But as his health deteriorates, Washington and Pyongyang appear unable to negotiate, each wary of giving concessions to the other. (AP Photo/Courtesy Terri Chung, File)

This 2011 file family photo provided by Terri Chung shows Kenneth Bae. (AP Photo/Courtesy Terri Chung)

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:

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.

NBA Hall of Fame player Dennis Rodman graces the cover of Sports Illustrated's annual "Where Are They Now" issue. (PHOTO BY CLAY PATRICK MCBRIDE/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED)

NBA Hall of Fame player Dennis Rodman graces the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual “Where Are They Now” issue. (PHOTO BY CLAY PATRICK MCBRIDE/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED)

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Comments | Topics: Dennis Rodman, kenneth bae, kim jong un

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