Skip to main content

Kenneth Bae urges U.S. to help secure his release in North Korea

By Judy Kwon and Josh Levs, CNN
January 21, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kenneth Bae's family apologizes to North Korea on his behalf
  • Bae -- still being held in North Korea -- says he committed a "serious crime"
  • The country has a long history of forcing false confessions
  • Recently released Merrill Newman said his confession was false and forced

(CNN) -- Kenneth Bae, a U.S. citizen being held in North Korea, told reporters on Monday that he had committed a "serious crime" in the secretive nation and that he had not experienced abusive treatment by the regime.

"I would like to plead with the U.S. government, press and my family to stop worsening my situation by making vile rumors against North Korea and releasing materials related to me, which are not based on the facts," he said before video cameras in Pyongyang.

"I want to be pardoned by the North as soon as possible and return to my beloved family," Bae told journalists from several news organizations. "For that, I ask the U.S. government, press and my family to make more active efforts and pay more attention."

Bae's family did just that. His sister Terri Chung released a statement that later Monday, at one point, addresses North Korean leaders.

Kenneth Bae's family pleads for mercy
Kenneth Bae: I am a criminal

"We understand that Kenneth has been convicted of crimes under (North Korean) laws. Our family sincerely apologizes on Kenneth's behalf. Kenneth has also acknowledged his crimes and has apologized. He has now served 15 months of his sentence, but faces chronic health problems. We humbly ask for your mercy to release my brother."

Chung said the video showed that her brother was worn down.

"In his eyes, I could see that he was distressed," she said.

Any statement made by Bae in captivity would be sanctioned by the North Korean government, whose widespread human rights abuses are known to the world.

The country has a long history of exacting false "confessions."

In December, 85-year-old Merrill Newman, a veteran of the Korean War, was freed from captivity in North Korea after being forced to give a false confession, he said afterward.

An Iranian court threw out a 2011 death sentence for Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine charged with spying. But he was secretly retried in Iran and convicted of "practical collaboration with the U.S. government," his sister told CNN on Friday, April 11. He has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, she said. Hekmati was detained in August 2011 during a visit to see his grandmother. His family and the Obama administration deny accusations he was spying for the CIA. An Iranian court threw out a 2011 death sentence for Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine charged with spying. But he was secretly retried in Iran and convicted of "practical collaboration with the U.S. government," his sister told CNN on Friday, April 11. He has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, she said. Hekmati was detained in August 2011 during a visit to see his grandmother. His family and the Obama administration deny accusations he was spying for the CIA.
Americans detained abroad
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
>
>>
Photos: Americans detained abroad Photos: Americans detained abroad

"Anyone who has read the text of it or who has seen the video of me reading it knows that the words were not mine and were not delivered voluntarily. Anyone who knows me knows that I could not have done the things they had me 'confess' to," he wrote.

Bae, of Lynwood, Washington, was arrested in November 2012 in Rason along North Korea's northeastern coast. The devout Christian and father of three operated a China-based company specializing in tours of North Korea, according to his family and freekennow.com, a website friends set up to promote his release.

"Several years ago, Kenneth saw an opportunity that combined his entrepreneurial spirit with his personal convictions as a Christian," the site said. "He believed in showing compassion to the North Korean people by contributing to their economy in the form of tourism."

The North Korean government accused Bae of planning to bring down the government through religious activities.

READ: Who is Kenneth Bae?

CNN's Judy Kwon and Paula Hancocks contributed to this report.

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