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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    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.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora