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.

Alan Gross, at right with Rabbi Arthur Schneier, has been in Cuban custody since December 2009, when he was jailed while working as a subcontractor. Cuban authorities say Gross tried to set up illegal Internet connections on the island. Gross says he was just trying to help connect the Jewish community to the Internet. Former President Jimmy Carter and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson have both traveled to Cuba on Gross' behalf. On December 17, Gross was released from Cuban prison. Alan Gross, at right with Rabbi Arthur Schneier, has been in Cuban custody since December 2009, when he was jailed while working as a subcontractor. Cuban authorities say Gross tried to set up illegal Internet connections on the island. Gross says he was just trying to help connect the Jewish community to the Internet. Former President Jimmy Carter and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson have both traveled to Cuba on Gross' behalf. On December 17, Gross was released from Cuban prison.
Americans detained abroad
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
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
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0117 GMT (0917 HKT)
Sources tell Evan Perez that U.S. investigators have determined North Korea was in fact behind the Sony hacking.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0148 GMT (0948 HKT)
Obama says people should "go to the movies" without fear, despite hackers' threats against venues that show "The Interview".
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 0035 GMT (0835 HKT)
CNN's Brian Todd reports on the hacking of Sony Pictures and whether North Korea could be behind it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
As the U.S. gets ready to blame the Sony hack on North Korea, a troublesome question is emerging: Just what is North Korea capable of?
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
A retired Silicon Valley executive and Korean War veteran was hauled off his plane at Pyongyang in 2013. Here's what happened next.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
A recent defector from North Korea tells of the harrowing escape into China via Chinese 'snakehead' gangs.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0039 GMT (0839 HKT)
CNN's Amara Walker speaks to a former North Korean prison guard about the abuses he witnessed and was forced to enact on prisoners.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0559 GMT (1359 HKT)
The chief of the Commission of Inquiry into North Korea's human rights says the world can no longer plead ignorance to the regime's offenses.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Kim Jong Il's former bodyguard tells of the beatings and starvation he endured while imprisoned in the country's most notorious prison camp.
November 10, 2014 -- Updated 1834 GMT (0234 HKT)
Christian Whiton argues "putting the United States at the same table as lawless thugs isn't just morally repugnant -- it's ineffective".
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 0543 GMT (1343 HKT)
Despite tense relations, China benefits from Kim Jong Un's rule in North Korea. David McKenzie explains.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 0851 GMT (1651 HKT)
North Korea has "the world's most advantageous human rights system" and citizens have "priceless political integrity", the country declared.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0852 GMT (1652 HKT)
Pro-wrestling, country clubs and theme parks are just some of the attractions North Korea wants you to see on a tightly controlled tour of the country.
ADVERTISEMENT