News / Asia

    Experts: American's Sentence a Bargaining Chip for N. Korea

    A passerby watches a local television broadcast in Seoul on May 2, 2013 showing a report and picture of Kenneth Bae (L), a Korean-American tour operator detained in North Korea.
    A passerby watches a local television broadcast in Seoul on May 2, 2013 showing a report and picture of Kenneth Bae (L), a Korean-American tour operator detained in North Korea.
    Korean-American tourist Kenneth Bae has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea, in what analysts are describing as a familiar ploy meant to win concessions from Washington and boost Pyongyang's domestic credentials.

    At least six Americans have been detained since 2009 in the notoriously reclusive state. While some were given similarly harsh sentences of hard labor, all were eventually released. In most cases, their release was won following much-publicized visits by high-ranking former U.S. officials.

    "It's very clear to me that the intention of the North Korean regime is to use [Kenneth Bae] as bargaining leverage and to entice former high ranking U.S. government officials and maybe current high-ranking officials to visit North Korea and thus boost Kim Jong Un's credentials," said Greg Scarlatoiu of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

    "This type of scheme is used not only to try to re-engage and restart some type of dialogue with the United States, but especially to boost the leadership's credentials at home," said Scarlatoiu.

    Related - North Korea Sentences American to 15 Years' Hard Labor

    That was the pattern seen in 2009, when ex-U.S. President Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea to secure the release of American television journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for what Pyongyang said was illegally entering the country.

    North Korean state media at the time seemed to depict Clinton's visit as a trip meant to pay homage to North Korean leadership. It also said he offered a "sincere apology" to North Korea for what it said were the "hostile acts" of the two journalists, a claim later denied by his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    US Citizens Detained by North Korea

    • 2013 - Kenneth Bae sentenced to 15 years hard labor for plotting to overthrow the government.
    • 2011 - Eddie Jun Yong-su detained for apparent missionary-related activities. Released following visit by U.S. delegation.
    • 2010 - Christian activist Aijalon Mahli Gomes sentenced to eight years hard labor. Release secured by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
    • 2009 - Christian missionary Robert Park beaten and detained for 43 days before being released.
    • 2009 - Journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling sentenced to 12 years hard labor. Release secured by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
    Much like in 2009, the current issue is complicated by Washington's ongoing standoff with the North over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. But Korea analyst Mike Chinoy of the University of Southern California's U.S.-China Institute says tensions are now so high, that it is unlikely a government-sponsored trip can be quickly arranged.

    "Moreover, the Obama administration has made very clear it's not comfortable getting into the same pattern of behavior we've seen between the United States and North Korea," he said. "I would be very surprised if the Obama administration on its own initiated any kind of high-level envoy."

    "The only other question is whether in the normal course of events someone might end up going, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson or former President [Jimmy] Carter, separately from the administration," he said.

    Chinoy said he does not know whether such a step would be seen as meaningful enough for the North to release Kenneth Bae. If not, he warns that the 44-year-old may be "stuck for a while" and may have to serve at least some of his 15-year prison term.

    Although Americans held in North Korea have often described harsh conditions during their detention, all of the five others detained in recent years were released within a year of being arrested.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora