News / Asia

Family of American Detained in North Korea to Meet Secretary Kerry

VOA News
The family of Kenneth Bae, an American who is being detained in North Korea, will meet Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The family tells VOA's Korean Service they will urge Kerry to do more to aid in Bae's release. He has been sentenced by North Korea to 15 years hard labor.

Bae's mother, Myunghee Bae, says she and her daughter, Terri Chung, will meet with Kerry at the State Department. She also said Congressman Charles Rangel invited her to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday.

"My son has been detained for a year and three months [in North Korea], but there is still no sign of him being released. I want to meet Secretary Kerry and ask him what we can do further for his release," said Bae.

Chung said there is no word from the State Department about a possible trip to North Korea by a U.S. special envoy to help free Bae.

Last week, a White House official, speaking anonymously, said the United States has offered to send Ambassador Robert King to help free Bae, and said the United States is waiting for a reply from North Korea.

"My heart feels very heavy.  I keep hearing that Ambassador King is ready to leave for North Korea but nothing specific is in the works," said Chung. "When he was invited to the North last time, we found out about it through media reports."

Last week, Bae appeared before reporters in Pyongyang and asked for Washington to help bring him home and confessed to a "serious crime" in the North. Bae is widely considered to have been speaking under duress.

The American was detained in November of 2012, while leading a tour group. North Korea said he used his tourism business to form groups aimed at overthrowing the government.

Most analysts say North Korea is trying to use Bae as a bargaining chip to extract concessions from Washington. But it is not clear what exactly the North wants.

Bae is the sixth American to be held in North Korea since 2009. All the others were released within a year, while Bae now has been held for 15 months.

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