Skip to main content

Kenneth Bae's mother visits North Korea to see imprisoned son

By Madison Park, CNN
October 11, 2013 -- Updated 0935 GMT (1735 HKT)
The American, Kenneth Bae is seen in a North Korean hospital room earlier this year.
The American, Kenneth Bae is seen in a North Korean hospital room earlier this year.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mother of Kenneth Bae arrives in North Korea to visit her son, says family friend
  • Bae has been sentenced to 15 years in North Korean labor camp
  • His mother says she was alarmed by her son's appearance in a July prison interview

(CNN) -- The mother of Kenneth Bae, the American imprisoned in North Korea, has arrived in the country to visit her ailing son, according to a friend of the family.

Earlier this year, Bae, a Korean-American, was sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean labor camp for what the government called "hostile acts."

His family has not been able to see him for almost a year since his November 3 arrest in North Korea.

"As a mother, I worry endlessly about his health," said his mother, Myunghee Bae in a videotaped statement. "I want to see him, comfort and hold him in person. I miss him so much."

Rodman: Jailed American not my problem
Imprisoned American's sister speaks out
Imprisoned American's health failing
Sister: Kenneth Bae is too weak to work

Bae, of Lynwood, Washington, said that she pleaded with the North Korean authorities to let her visit her son, and expressed gratitude for granting permission. She is expected to be in North Korea for five days with the goal of encouraging her son who has become ill, according to a website dedicated to Kenneth Bae's freedom.

In a prison interview released in July, Kenneth Bae had spoken of health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver and a back problem. He looked noticeably thinner and wore a blue prison garment streaked with sweat and dirt.

His family say he has lost more than 50 pounds.

"My heart was broken into pieces when his prison interview was released on July 3," said his mother, in her statement. "His appearance was very shocking, he looked so different, and he lost so much weight. I could not believe that prisoner was my son."

Bae was moved to a hospital for serious health problems, his sister, Terri Chung had told CNN in August.

In previous interviews, Chung has said that her brother suffers from health problems including severe back and leg pain, kidney stones, dizziness, blurred vision and loss of vision. He was already dealing with diabetes.

His family and friends have asked North Korea for mercy and the United States for help in securing his release.

U.S. officials have repeatedly called on North Korea to release Bae. In August, the two countries appeared close, but North Korea rescinded an invitation to a U.S. envoy. Ambassador Robert King, President Barack Obama's special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, had been expected to fly to Pyongyang to try to win his freedom.

In previous instances, North Korea has released Americans in its custody after a visit by some U.S. dignitary -- in recent cases, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Bae was arrested last year after arriving as a tourist in Rason City, a port in the northeastern corner of North Korea. His sister says that Bae is the owner of a tour company and was in North Korea for work.

The North Korean government accuses Bae of setting up bases in China for the purpose of "toppling" the North Korean government, encouraging North Korean citizens to bring down the government and conducting a "malignant smear campaign."

The country's state media also says that Bae had planned what it called a "Jericho operation" to bring down North Korea through religious activities. They have suggested that Bae could have been sentenced to death, but avoided it through "candid confession of his crimes."

On the eve of her trip, his mother looked solemnly into the camera, expressing her anxiety.

"It's hard to describe the agony of the past year since my son has been imprisoned in the DPRK," she said in a released statement. "I spend every day thinking about him and praying for his homecoming."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 2, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Experts warn that under Kim Jong Un's rule, Pyongyang has shown an even greater willingness to raise the stakes than before.
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
China and North Korea criticize a U.N. report that found crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
March 17, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
Megumi Yokota was only 13 when she was abducted by a North Korean agent in the 1970s. What happened after that?
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 0430 GMT (1230 HKT)
Report: North Korea uses multiple techniques to defy sanctions, and shows no signs of abandoning its nuclear missile programs.
February 21, 2014 -- Updated 0817 GMT (1617 HKT)
Families torn apart for more than 60 years -- separated by the Korean War -- began to reunite at a mountain resort in North Korea Thursday.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 1150 GMT (1950 HKT)
A stunning catalog of torture and the widespread abuse of even the weakest of North Koreans reveal a portrait of a brutal state, the UN reported.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 0431 GMT (1231 HKT)
Former prisoners in North Korea describe horrific stories of being tortured by authorities.
February 14, 2014 -- Updated 1527 GMT (2327 HKT)
Skiing is not the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about the isolated nation, but North Korea's ski resort is world class.
February 8, 2014 -- Updated 0315 GMT (1115 HKT)
American Kenneth Bae, who is being held in North Korea, has been moved from a hospital to a labor camp.
January 8, 2014 -- Updated 0213 GMT (1013 HKT)
Why is he being held by North Korea in a prison camp? These are the questions for many since his arrest in the isolated country in 2012.
January 27, 2014 -- Updated 0818 GMT (1618 HKT)
The first time the South Korean factory owner watched his North Korean employees nibble on a Choco Pie, they appeared shocked.
January 8, 2014 -- Updated 0126 GMT (0926 HKT)
Dennis Rodman's "Big Bang in Pyongyang" may be in a league of its own, but other stars too have mixed with repressive regimes before.
December 19, 2013 -- Updated 1800 GMT (0200 HKT)
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman arrives in North Korea to train basketball players, state-run media reports.
December 18, 2013 -- Updated 0250 GMT (1050 HKT)
The nation held a memorial in the honor of former North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il on the second anniversary of his death.
December 13, 2013 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
Days after he was removed from his powerful military post, Jang Song Thaek was called a traitor and executed.
ADVERTISEMENT