An American missionary who has been held in North Korea for more than a year spoke to reporters in Pyongyang on Monday and asked the U.S. government to help secure his release.
Kenneth Bae, dressed in a grey cap and inmate’s uniform with the number 103 on his chest, spoke with reporters at a news conference he said was held at his own request, although he was under guard at the time, the Associated Press reports. “I believe that my problem can be solved by close cooperation and agreement between the American government and the government of this country,” Bae said.
Bae was arrested in November 2012 while leading a tour group and accused of crimes against the state. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labor, but has been transferred to a hospital because of poor health. The U.S. government insists he is not guilty of any crimes, but on Monday Bae apologized and said he had committed anti-government acts.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki expressed concerns for Bai’s health. ”We continue to urge the DPRK authorities to grant Bae amnesty and immediate release. We continue to work actively to secure Mr. Bae’s release,” she said. “The protection of U.S. citizens overseas is one of the Department of State’s highest priorities.”
The missionary’s detention was in the news earlier this month when former NBA player Dennis Rodman traveled to Pyongyang for an exhibition game with retired NBA players. In an interview while in Pyongyang, Rodman made comments implying that Bae’s detention was his own fault. Rodman later apologized.
MORE: N. Korea Detainee Kenneth Bae Urges U.S. To Help Free Him