News / Asia

    US Prisoner in N. Korea Marks Birthday

    Protester holds portrait of American missionary Kenneth Bae during anti-North Korea rally in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 16, 2014.
    Protester holds portrait of American missionary Kenneth Bae during anti-North Korea rally in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 16, 2014.
    Baik Sungwon

    The family of Kenneth Bae, an American imprisoned in North Korea, celebrated his 46th birthday Friday without him.

    “Happy birthday, Jun-ho!” said his mother Myung-hee Bae when asked to send a message to Bae during a phone interview with the VOA Korean service. The Baes are of Korean ethnicity and Jun-ho is Kenneth Bae’s Korean name.

    “My heart is hurting because I can’t spend today with you, but I love you and hope you are enduring well,” his mother added.

    Bae was convicted by North Korea last year on charges of planning to overthrow the government. He was working as an Evangelical Christian Missionary when he was arrested by Pyongyang in November 2012. He was later sentenced to 15 years in prison.

    His mother adorned the birthday dinner table with some of Bae’s favorite dishes.

    “He really likes meat,” said Myung-hee with a sigh while speaking from the Bae residence in the western state of Washington.

    Around 7 p.m. Bae’s supporters joined the family in a prayer session wishing for his swift and safe return.

    Journalist Euna Lee, who was also detained in the North for almost five months back in 2009, joined the prayer efforts. 

    She and fellow journalist Laura Ling were detained in North Korea after they briefly crossed into the reclusive state from China without visas while working for Current TV.

    They were freed in August of 2009 during a special humanitarian visit by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

    “[Kenneth Bae] is already spending his second birthday in North Korea," Lee said during a phone conversation with VOA. "I hope his next birthday will be celebrated here with his family.”

    Lee said she can only imagine the amount of suffering Bae is going through. The missionary detention in the communist country is now four times as long as her own was.

    “The time I spent imprisoned in the North felt like 10 years," she said. "I know it must be hard for him but hope he remembers there is always light at the end of a tunnel, no matter how long and dark it is.”

    Myung-hee Bae has done everything she could have done for her son’s release, including urging Secretary of State John Kerry to make proactive efforts toward his release.

    The 70-year-old even flew to North Korea last October and reunited with her emaciated son and urged Pyongyang to show generosity in letting him go. Washington has also called on Pyongyang to free Bae as a humanitarian gesture.

    Bae suffers from heart and back problems and is one of three Americans being held in North Korea.

    Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
    August 05, 2014 12:29 PM
    North Korea is holding him to be release at an opportune moment to attract some international attention such as asking Bill Clinton to come to collect another prisoner to be released. This might happen again. The Kim leaders like that kind of game playing at the expense of a victim's liberty.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora