Update, 9:50 p.m.: After his sister spoke at the news conference, Kenneth Bae stepped up to the microphone to express many thank yous.
“Thank you all for supporting me, lifting me up,” he told reporters.
He thanked people for supporting his family throughout the ordeal. He thanked President Obama and the State Department, even the North Korean government for “letting me go home.”
“It’s been amazing two years.”
He noted that he had lost a lot of weight, but added that he was “standing strong because of you.”
“Thank you for all your support and prayer and love,” he added. “It’s really been encouraging for me and for others.”
In her comments just moments before, Terri Chung, Bae’s sister, opened with, “We’re finally here. My brother is home.”
She explained that his tourism business was meant to connect people to the people and beauty of North Korea.
Chung asked that people pray for those who suffer in North Korea, but even so, she added, her family was grateful for the leaders of North Korea, “who relented.”
She added the family’s gratitude to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for not forgetting Bae.
Update, 9:30 p.m.: A news conference from the military base is expected soon. Kenneth Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, is expected to make a statement. Chung, of Edmonds, has been the family’s chief spokesperson throughout Bae’s imprisonment.
Update, 9:11 p.m.: Matthew Todd Miller, the other American released by North Korea today, has now walked off the plane, as well. Miller is from Bakersfield, Calif.
Update, 9:07 p.m.: Kenneth Bae has walked off the U.S. government plane, moving briskly, into the arms of his mother. He is smiling, as he walks with family.
There has been a lot of concern about Bae’s health, but he appears to be comfortable moving about on his own.
Update, 8:59 p.m.: The plane carrying Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller has landed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
A group of about two dozen people, including supporters of the just-released prisoners and government personnel, are watching and taking photos as the plane taxis in.
Update, 7:35 p.m.: Plane now expected to land a bit earlier, around 9 p.m.
Update, 6:05 p.m.: According to The Associated Press, Derek Sciba, a Bae family friend and spokesman, Bae’s mother and sister will greet him at JBLM.
Update, 5:55 p.m.: Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller are expected to land at Joint Base Lewis-McChord at 9:15 p.m. Saturday, according the State Department.
Update, 11:50 a.m.: U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who has worked with Kenneth Bae’s family and the State Department for the Lynnwood man’s release, issued a statement Saturday:
“I am so thrilled that Kenneth Bae has finally been released from North Korea along with Matthew Todd Miller. It has been a long two years for Kenneth’s family, but they never stopped fighting for him, and they never lost faith that this day would come. Kenneth’s family has spent the last two years doing everything they could to hasten this moment and see their brother, son, father, and husband once again. Kenneth’s sister Terri, in particular, has made it her personal mission to bring her brother back and her powerful voice and hard work truly helped make this day possible. This is a great day for Kenneth’s family, friends, and all of us in Washington state who have worked, hoped, and prayed for Kenneth’s return over the last two years.”
Original post: After two years imprisoned in North Korea, Lynnwood resident Kenneth Bae is homeward bound, U.S. officials announced Saturday.
Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, has been praying for this moment since he was detained Nov. 3, 2012 for alleged anti-government activities associated with a supposed Christian plot while leading a tour group through the city of Rason.
“Words cannot adequately express our relief and gratitude that Kenneth is finally coming home,” Chung posted Saturday on the “Free Kenneth Now” Facebook page she set up to continue her public campaign for the release of her brother. “The day we’ve been praying for has finally arrived!”
In the post, Chung, who lives in Edmonds, said her family heard news from the U.S. State Department early Saturday that Bae was on a plane from North Korea bound for the U.S. with fellow detainee Matthew Miller.
“I am thrilled to imagine hugging my brother soon. He will not have to spend another day at a labor camp,” she wrote. “He can now recover from this imprisonment and look forward to his wife, kids and rest of his life. Our Thanksgiving celebration this year will be one we will never forget.”
In the post, she thanked the U.S. government for all the hard work and dedication to securing her brother’s and Miller’s release, the North Korean government for allowing them to return home, as well as the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang for advocating for Bae during his imprisonment.
“We are grateful to everyone who has supported my brother’s cause, including reporters and editors who cared enough to see this through. We are thankful for people here in Seattle and across the world who have continued to advocate and pray for Kenneth,” she wrote.