Skip to main content

Kenneth Bae's mother leaves North Korea 'more anxious than ever' to bring son home

By the CNN Staff
October 21, 2013 -- Updated 1411 GMT (2211 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Myunghee Bae said she was able to visit her son three times
  • 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 has left North Korea "more anxious than ever" to bring her imprisoned and ailing son home.

In a statement she released Tuesday, Myunghee Bae said she was able to visit her son three times and was relieved to see his health was improving.

"I was happy to see him and to hold him, but it broke my heart to leave him behind," she said. "I am more anxious than ever to bring him home. His year-long imprisonment has taken a heavy toll not only on Kenneth but on the whole family; every day the pain and anxiety continue to carve a deep scar on all of our hearts."

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

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

Myunghee 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 arrived late last week, 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 an earlier 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."

"I plead with our government to do everything in their power to secure my son's release soon," Myunghee Bae said Tuesday.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 0135 GMT (0935 HKT)
Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions Monday in an exclusive interview with CNN.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0852 GMT (1652 HKT)
The crowd cheers as the stars make their way to the ring for first pro-wrestling bout North Korea has seen in almost 20 years.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0137 GMT (0937 HKT)
CNN's Will Ripley makes a rare live report from reclusive North Korea.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)
CNN's Will Ripley is given a rare look inside North Korea and tours Kim Jong Un's pet project, a waterpark.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1918 GMT (0318 HKT)
Several South Korean "comfort woman" attended a Papal mass, but hope the Pope will do more. Erin McLaughlin reports.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 0228 GMT (1028 HKT)
Pope Francis arrived in Seoul Thursday, marking the first papal visit to the country in 25 years.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
North Korea rejected an invitation to the Pope's Mass in Seoul. CNN's Paula Hancocks reports.
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
As diplomats discuss a string of unsolved kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korea, the families of those abducted anxiously wait.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT)
North Korea says it plans to prosecute two American tourists that it detained earlier this year, accusing them of "perpetrating hostile acts."
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 2338 GMT (0738 HKT)
North Korea proposed that "all hostile military activities" with South Korea be halted, but it attached conditions that Seoul is likely to reject.
June 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
North Korean state news is reporting the country test-launched "cutting-edge ultra precision tactical guided missiles."
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
James Franco won't be following Dennis Rodman into North Korea anytime soon.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 1104 GMT (1904 HKT)
Don't you hate it when the weatherman gets it wrong? Apparently, so does Kim Jong Un.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 2344 GMT (0744 HKT)
New signs show Russia and North Korea are developing a closer relationship.
May 22, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
Photographer Eric Lafforgue visited North Korea and shares his inside look at the most isolated country in the world.
May 13, 2014 -- Updated 0125 GMT (0925 HKT)
Many North Koreans listen to illegal broadcasts on homemade radios, some are convinced to defect.
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 1926 GMT (0326 HKT)
Jang Jin-Sung, a North Korean defector and former regime insider, speaks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
ADVERTISEMENT