Washington D.C., Aug 7, 2014 / 15:43 pm
A Baptist missionary held captive in North Korea says he feels "abandoned" by the U.S. government after nearly two years of detainment.
Kenneth Bae feels "abandoned by the United States government," quoted Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korea newspaper based in Japan, in a July 31 video interview.
The video and stills from it showed Bae wearing a blue prison uniform. He begged for help and fought back tears as he spoke.
Bae, an American citizen and Southern Baptist missionary, was convicted of "hostile acts" against North Korea in 2012, and was sentenced to 15 years in the country's labor camps.
The missionary was arrested while leading a foreign tour group throughout the country, which was focused on spending money in the country to improve the lives of North Korean citizens, rather than proselytization.
Currently, Bae is one of three Americans imprisoned in North Korea, and has been held the longest. The other American captives are Matthew T. Miller, who was arrested in April 2014 after demanding asylum and Jeffrey E. Fowle, arrested in June after completing a tour of the country.
Bae suffers from several health conditions, including diabetes and an enlarged heart, and has been hospitalized several times during his internment in North Korea. In the video, Bae also cited new liver and lung issues, saying that "my main concern right now is my physical condition."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a July 31 press statement that the administration is concerned about Bae's condition and working for his release.
"We are very concerned about his health," she said, adding that the State Department has urged North Korean "authorities to grant him special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds."
Previously, the U.S. government has tried to secure Bae's release through negotiations with North Korea by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, as well as "basketball diplomacy" during a celebrity trip to the country by NBA star Dennis Rodman. However, negotiations have failed so far to secure his release.
Bae's family spoke of their concern for the missionary following the captive's interview.
"Although we acknowledge and appreciate all the efforts the US State Department has been making behind the scenes to secure Kenneth's release, the fact remains that after almost 2 years, Kenneth still remains imprisoned in North Korea," said Terri Chung, Bae's sister, in a statement.
"We are afraid that Kenneth has already suffered irreparable damage to his health," she continued. "Our family is becoming increasingly desperate to get Kenneth home to seek the medical care he needs."
Chung, speaking for the family, pleaded with President Obama and Secretary Kerry for urgent action to free Bae.
"With Kenneth's health continuing to deteriorate, we cannot afford to wait any longer. Please do whatever it takes to bring Kenneth home," she added. "It is long past time."
"We not only pray every day for his freedom, we pray for his life, as he is enduring very difficult conditions," Chung said.