News / USA

Ex-US Ambassador Urges Release of Korean-American in Pyongyang

FILE - American missionary Kenneth Bae speaks to reporters at Pyongyang Friendship Hospital in Pyongyang, North Korea.
FILE - American missionary Kenneth Bae speaks to reporters at Pyongyang Friendship Hospital in Pyongyang, North Korea.
VOA News
An ex-United States diplomat returned Friday from a five-day visit to North Korea, where he urged Pyongyang to free Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae.

Donald Gregg said Friday that Bae's fate was not the main purpose of his trip, but that he raised the issue during meetings with North Korean Foreign Ministry officials.

"I urged that he be released. But that was not on our agenda, and we just felt that we needed to say that," said Gregg.

Gregg was the U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 1989 to 1993. The U.S. State Department said Gregg's visit to Pyongyang was not on behalf of Washington.

Gregg is now chairman of the U.S.-based Pacific Century Institute. He said North Korean leaders are not optimistic about relations with the United States.

"They hope that it will improve, but they're very optimistic about their own ability to grow stronger economically here, and they will just hope that relations between our two countries will improve in the not too distant future," said Gregg.

The fate of Bae has been one of many issues challenging the U.S.-North Korean relationship. The 45-year old is serving a 15-year sentence of hard labor after being found guilty of trying to overthrow the government.

There had been hope that Gregg's trip would help win Bae's release, after North Korea withdrew an invitation for a senior American envoy to discuss the case.

The U.S. believes the North withdrew the invitation for Robert King, the U.S. Special Envoy for Human Rights Issues, because of joint U.S.-South Korean military drills.

Last week, the U.S. State Department said Bae has been transferred from a hospital to a labor camp.

North Korea arrested Bae in late 2012.

Calls for his release on humanitarian grounds have gone unanswered.

Bae was born in South Korea and emigrated to the United States with his parents and sister in 1985. He was living in China as a Christian missionary for about seven years before his arrest.

Within the last few years, he began leading small tour groups, mostly of American and Canadian citizens, into a "special economic zone" designed to encourage commerce in northeastern North Korea.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs