World News

Top US Envoy to Seek Freedom for Citizen Jailed in N. Korea

The United States is sending a senior envoy to North Korea to seek freedom for an ailing Korean-American Christian missionary who has been sentenced to 15 years at hard labor.

The State Department says Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues Robert King will ask that Kenneth Bae be freed on humanitarian grounds when he visits Pyongyang on Friday.

A White House spokesman says the United States is deeply concerned about Bae, who is reported to have been moved from a labor camp to a hospital after losing more than 23 kilograms. The 44-year-old suffers several health problems, including with his liver and kidneys.

Bae was arrested after entering the country in November as a tour operator. He was later convicted of trying to topple the government.

North Korea has not publicly responded to the news of King's trip. But the State Department says his visit is being made at the invitation of the Pyongyang government.

Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Scott Snyder believes an agreement on Mr. Bae's release has already been worked out.





"Still hard to say it's already been agreed to or not, but I think that it is likely that Ambassador King would not go unless he was able to bring Kenneth Bae back.



North Korea has detained at least six Americans since 2009. All have been allowed to return home before serving their full sentences. Most were released following visits by prominent Americans, including former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Euna Lee, a Korean-American journalist who was freed in 2009 after a special visit to Pyongyang by Mr. Clinton, told VOA's Korean service that she is grateful for those working to bring Mr. Bae home.



"I am on the verge of crying. I can barely speak. I am so thankful to those who worked on his and his family's behalf," she said.



In a video earlier this month posted by a pro-North Korea newspaper in Japan, Bae said his health was deteriorating and called on the U.S. to send a high-ranking official to negotiate his release.

Many analysts have said Pyongyang is using Bae's case as a bargaining chip to try to extract concessions from the U.S. over its nuclear and missile programs. North Korea denies this.

Bae's arrest came at a time of heightened U.S.-North Korea tension. Just weeks after his arrest, Pyongyang carried out a long-range rocket launch and subsequent nuclear test, both of which were strongly condemned by the United Nations.

At the height of the crisis, North Korea was threatening to launch nuclear attacks on the United States and South Korea. Tensions have since died down, with Pyongyang taking several steps to improve relations with Seoul.

The U.S. statements on Tuesday did not mention whether any effort would be made during the trip to advance multi-nation nuclear disarmament talks, which have been stalled since 2009.

King played a part in negotiating a 2012 deal under which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to freeze his impoverished country's nuclear program in exchange for food aid. Washington later suspended the agreement after North Korea launched a rocket.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs