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Imprisoned US Missionary Pleads for Help to Get Home From North Korea

American missionary Kenneth Bae, right, leaves after speaking to reporters at Pyongyang Friendship Hospital in Pyongyang Monday, Jan. 20, 2014.
A Korean-American missionary who has been imprisoned in North Korea for more than a year has appeared before reporters and appealed to Washington to do its best to win his release.

Speaking in Korean and under guard, Kenneth Bae told reporters Monday that he wants to return to his family as soon as possible and hopes the United States will help.

The appeal came after North Korea signaled last week it was prepared to reach out to South Korea if it abandoned military drills with the United States that start next month and as Pyongyang appeared to embark on a charm offensive.

Footage released by Kyodo showed Bae in a drab grey prison uniform and baseball cap as he was escorted into the brief press conference.

The footage was less than a minute long and Bae appeared to be in reasonable health before he was escorted out by uniformed North Korean officials.

It was not immediately clear why the North Korean authorities allowed the press conference, Bae's second media appearance since he was jailed.

The 45-year-old Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on a conviction of state subversion. He was detained in November 2012 while leading a tour group. North Korea claimed he used his tourism business to form groups aimed at overthrowing the government, and that his crimes deserved the death penalty.

An attempt to secure Bae's release by a U.S. emissary was called off by Pyongyang in August and there has been no official contact between the United States and North Korea since then.

During a visit to Pyongyang this month, retired U.S. basketball player Dennis Rodman said he did not bring up Bae's release because he was just there to play a basketball game for leader Kim Jong Un's birthday and have some fun.

Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.