News / USA

    3 Americans Held in N. Korea Urge US Help

    • Kenneth Bae, an American tour guide and missionary serving a 15-year sentence in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press in Pyongyang, Sept. 1, 2014.
    • Kenneth Bae, an American tour guide and missionary serving a 15-year sentence in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press in Pyongyang, Sept. 1, 2014.
    • Jeffrey Fowle, an American detained in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press in Pyongyang, Sept. 1, 2014.
    • Jeffrey Fowle, an American detained in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press in Pyongyang, Sept. 1, 2014.
    • Mathew Miller, an American detained in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 1, 2014.
    • Mathew Miller, 24, an American detained in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press in Pyongyang, Sept. 1, 2014.
    VOA News

    Three American citizens being held prisoners in North Korea have called on the United States to send a high-ranking representative to secure their release.

    The three – Kenneth Bae, Matthew Miller and Jeffrey Fowle – made the remarks in rare interviews set up by the North Korean government with U.S. journalists who are visiting the isolated country.

    As North Korean officials looked on, the three called for a high-profile U.S. representative to visit North Korea and make a direct appeal for their release.

    Bae, who is serving a 15-year sentence, said his health is failing and Miller described his own situation as "very urgent." Miller and Fowle are awaiting trials.

    The U.S. journalists from CNN and the Associated Press, who were on an official visit to North Korea, say they were summoned to conduct the unplanned interviews in Pyongyang. They were given five minutes with each man, they said.

    State Department calls for release

    State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said there was no greater priority that the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad. She said the department was aware of Monday's developments and called on North Korea to release the Americans. She asked Pyongyong to pardon Bae and grant him amnesty so he could return to his home in Lynwood, Washington, and receive medical care.

    Psaki said Swedish Embassy representatives in Pyongyang had visited all three U.S. citizens and the embassy has been in touch with the U.S. government.

    Watch related video report from VOA's Carolyn Presutti:

    US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Koreai
    X
    September 02, 2014 3:04 AM
    The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.

    Circumstances vary

    North Korea sentenced Bae to 15 years of hard labor in April 2013 for "hostile acts" against the Pyongyang regime. The Korean-American Christian missionary was arrested in November 2012 while leading a group of tourists in the northern city of Rason.

    Bae, 46, said he works eight hours a day, six days a week at a labor camp and is being treated "as humanely as possible." He said he spends time going between the labor camp and a hospital.

    Bae's sister, Terri Chung, appealed to North Korean officials to show mercy and release her brother. She said the video interview clearly showed her brother is in a lot of physical pain and under great stress.

    "It's really hard to watch," Chung said, noting her brother said he was "in complete isolation for the past year and a half. … He doesn't look like himself. He looks like he's under a tremendous amount of stress and he talks about his health failing, so all of that is really hard.'' 

    Bae’s family visited Washington earlier this year to work for his release.  His mother Myung-hee Bae watched her son’s latest interview and came away with the same plea.

    “I really wanted it to happen right now because his body no longer takes long imprisonment in labor camp clearly his body taken big toll. His body look like it shrink a lot for me and his back aches and he got a sleep disorder, so I really ask our government to act now,” said Myung-hee.  

    Miller, 24, allegedly tore up his visa on his arrival in Pyongyang April 10 and demanded asylum. During his interview, Miller said he has not yet been tried and will not learn what the charges against him are until his hearing.

    Fowle, 56, entered North Korea April 29 and is accused of perpetrating activities that violate North Korean law. Diplomatic sources have said he left a Bible in his hotel room. The municipal worker from the Midwestern state of Ohio said he has no complaints about his treatment.

    The last time the United States negotiated a North Korean prisoner release was in 2009, when former president Bill Clinton returned with journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. David Straub, the former director of the State Department’s Korea desk, assisted Clinton with the negotiations. He said this time, the North Koreans are misjudging their leverage.

    “If I were still in the U.S. government, I would be reluctant to be a party to sending extremely senior Americans to pick up Americans who have been incarcerated. At what point can you continue to do that? At what point does this become a benefit to the North Koreans, allowing them at any point to blackmail the United States?” said Straub.

    Straub said last month a secret U.S. mission to North Korea was unsuccessful in getting the three men freed.  He thinks the Koreans want to put more pressure on the U.S. government to send a higher level government official.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Mitch Eisenstein
    September 02, 2014 2:09 AM
    why are we saving missionaries who are counting on the USA to bail them out? they purposely got themselves captured to call attention to beliefs that the world already knows about North Korea. we know they are crazy. but are they anti christian? Duh!

    by: Uncle Tom from: florida
    September 01, 2014 9:38 PM
    Not to worry,Obama will send his hero,Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to rescue Miller.Three peas in the same pod.

    by: Norm Reeves from: Washington State
    September 01, 2014 9:37 PM
    Why in the hell would anyone go to N Korea?

    by: Jeff from: Peru
    September 01, 2014 8:59 PM
    Gee, why would they throw an American in a jail in No. Korean. This is not a first and we might consider teaching by example; leave these people to serve out their term and maybe others will get the point-if you go to No. Korea, you go to jail. Not a hard concept to grasp.

    by: john Reagan
    September 01, 2014 8:54 PM
    I have no sympathy for those that chose to put themselves in harms way, either by purposely going to a hostile area, or 'accidentally' crossing the border while hiking. What do they want. a US invasion? Not a chance. get lost.

    by: Regula from: USA
    September 01, 2014 8:52 PM
    Leave them in North Korea. They are CIA spies. Surely everybody by now knows that North Korea doesn't want Christian proselytizers. North Korea isn't Christian and has no intention to become Christian. If, after so many Americans got stuck in jail in North Korea for insisting to preach bibles with CIA instructions inserted, Americans still go there with some CIA religious gospel - let them sit off their sentence. Maybe that will finally keep American flakes out of North Korea.

    Surely nobody believes that Bae is so sick - why on earth does he go to proselytize in North Korea when he is dependent on western hospitals?

    These whining CIA flakes should stop whining and accept that you have to abide by the laws of the country you visit. Christian religion is a scourge and should be outlawed even in the west.

    by: Tom from: USA
    September 01, 2014 5:18 PM
    So...Miller tears up his visa, denounces his US citizenship and tells North Korea that he wishes to seek asilum. They detain him and are in the process of charging him and throwing his butt in prison so now he cries fowl? Now we're supposed to feel sorry for him and spend time and taxpayer money to get his worthless carcass out and bring him back to the country he loathed so much that he denounced his citizenship? REALLY? Mr. Miller, you got what you asked for! Deal with it! After having denounced your citizenship you no longer belong to this country. At the very least, you should have to acquire your citizenship just like any other foreigner. Or just promise to vote democrat...but that's a different issue.

    by: Star from: China
    September 01, 2014 4:05 PM
    Why do you go to N.K.?A number of cases shows that N.K. do not welcome the U.S.
    In Response

    by: Regula from: USA
    September 01, 2014 8:57 PM
    North Korea is perfectly hospitable to Americans who go there with sincere intentions. But it rightfully is not hospitable to flakes who go there under the cover of religious proselytizing, knowing that North Korea does not want Christianity - i.e. by disrespecting North Korea from the outset - but in reality going there for the CIA with a political mission, handing out bibles with secret information inserts etc. Which country would want such slimy [expletive deleted]? Leave them in jail. That is where they belong. They are spies. And the US is the first country who will jail spies for long sentences. Give North Korea the same right.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora