Name: Kenneth Bae
Age: 45 years
Citizenship: US, born in South Korea and immigrated at age 16
Family: wife, 3 children
Occupation: business owner
Crime: Bringing down the government through religious activities
Sentence: 15 years hard labor
At age 44, Kenneth Bae moved to China (2005) to start “Nations Tour,” a China based tourism company, that specialized in tours to North Korea. According to a website devoted to his release, “Several years ago, Kenneth saw an opportunity that combined his entrepreneurial spirit with his personal convictions as a Christian,” the website said. “He believed in showing compassion to the North Korean people by contributing to their economy in the form of tourism.” Upon Kenneth’s arrest in 2012, he had guided 15 tours in North Korea, mostly comprised of Canadians and Americans.
On November 3, 2012, Kenneth Bae was arrested on day 1 of a 5-day tour. He was in Rason, an area along the northeastern coast of North Korea that has been established by Pyongyang as a special economic zone to promote trade and investment. A few weeks later, North Korean state run media reported the allegations against him. Among the allegations: Bae was setting up bases in China to topple the North Korean government; he was encouraging North Korean citizens to bring down the government; and he was conducting a “malignant smear campaign.” In May, an additional allegation of setting up a “Jericho Operation” in an effort to bring down the government through religious means was added.
According to state run media, Kenneth Bae confessed to all charges. That statement has not been confirmed. It is unknown exactly what Kenneth Bae did to obtain these charges. It is speculated that he carried a Bible. His sentence carries 15 years of hard labor, the harshest dealt to outside Christian missionaries.
Bae’s mother and sister have done multiple interviews and have expressed their worry over his health. 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.
Bae was taken to a hospital but returned to a hard labor camp January 20, 2014.
Voice of the Martyrs has started a campaign to free Kenneth Bae, along with other Christians held in North Korea. They are taking letters to the North Korean representative at the United Nations, condemning the imprisonment and torture of over 30,000 Christians. You can join this effort here.
New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/world/asia/baptist-missionary-sentenced-to-life-in-hard-labor-by-north-korea.html