News / USA

US Calls on Pyongyang to Release Korean-American Tour Guide

A South Korean man watches a television news program showing Korean American Kenneth Bae in Seoul, South Korea, May 2, 2013A South Korean man watches a television news program showing Korean American Kenneth Bae in Seoul, South Korea, May 2, 2013
x
A South Korean man watches a television news program showing Korean American Kenneth Bae in Seoul, South Korea, May 2, 2013
A South Korean man watches a television news program showing Korean American Kenneth Bae in Seoul, South Korea, May 2, 2013
VOA News
The United States is calling on North Korea to release a Korean-American sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for what Pyongyang says were "hostile acts" against the state.

U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell spoke to reporters Thursday about 44-year-old Kenneth Bae, a tour guide operator arrested this past November.

"What we're calling on for and what we're calling on the DPRK to do is to grant him amnesty and to allow for his immediate release," Ventrell said.

The official Korean Central News Agency says Bae, also known as Pae Jun-ho, was convicted by the country's supreme court Tuesday.  Pyongyang previously said Bae confessed to committing crimes aimed at overthrowing the government.

Ventrell says the facts are not clear.

"There hasn't been transparency in the case.  So while some of the facts are limited - to our knowledge we don't know all of the facts - we are concerned broadly speaking about the transparency and due process in North Korea and we think he should be released," Ventrell said.

Bae's college friends also have undertaken a campaign to secure his release.

Bobby Lee, now an advisor to Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, says that even in college, Bae was generous.

"He believed in being part of something and to make this world a better place," Lee said.

Lee also told VOA's Korean Service the charges against Bae just do not make sense.

"He's just an average guy.  He has no stake in the matter.  He was simply doing his job and somehow got caught in this whole debate," Lee said.

Lee and other friends have been sending letters to politicians, including former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, urging them to work for his release.

Bae was arrested in November in the northeastern port city of Rason, which lies in a special economic zone near the border with Russia and China.

In December, VOA's Korean Service was told by sources familiar with the matter that Bae was a tour guide operating his own company. They say he was detained for possessing photos of hungry North Korean children begging for food.

The Citizen's Coalition for the Human Rights for North Korean Refugees, a human rights group, also told VOA that Bae did charity work and provided assistance for North Korean orphans.

North Korea has detained several Americans in recent years, mostly journalists or Christians accused of proselytizing.

In 2009, two television journalists were detained and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor after crossing into the North from China. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton later traveled to North Korea to win their release.

In 2010, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter negotiated the release of U.S. national Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who was sentenced to eight years of hard labor after illegally crossing the border from China.

Another U.S. delegation in 2011 helped secure the release of Eddie Jun Yong-su, a businessman who was jailed after allegedly conducting missionary related activities.

The North Korean announcement comes at a time of increased tensions on the Korean peninsula. In recent weeks, Pyongyang has threatened attacks against South Korea and the U.S. in response to expanded sanctions against its latest nuclear test.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid