Friday, October 11, 2013

North Korea: Mother of Imprisoned US Citizen Kenneth Bae Arrives in Pyongyang

According to CNN, the mother of Kenneth Bae, 45, a US citizen imprisoned in North Korea on November 3, 2012, Myunghee Bae has arrived in Pyongyang to ideally see her son. 

Bae, of Lynwood, Washington, said that she pleaded with the North Korean authorities to let her visit her son, and expressed gratitude to the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) for granting such permission. She is expected to be in North Korea for five days with the goal of encouraging her son who has become ill. 

In a prison interview released in July 2013, Kenneth Bae had spoken of health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver, dizziness, blurred vision and a back problem. He looked noticeably thinner and wore a blue prison garment streaked with sweat and dirt. 

Bae's family also reports that Bae has lost more than 50 pounds. Most recently, Bae was relocated to a hospital so he could be treated for a number of health ailments. 

COMMENT: US officials have repeatedly called on North Korea to release Bae. In August 2013, the two countries appeared close to reaching an agreement on Bae's release, but then Pyongyang suddenly withdrew an invitation for US Ambassador Robert King, a special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, had been expected to fly to Pyongyang to try to win Bae's freedom.

In previous instances, North Korea has released Americans in its custody after a visit by US dignitaries, namely former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Bae was arrested last year after arriving as a tourist in Rason City, a port in the northeastern corner of North Korea. His sister says that Bae is the owner of a tour company and was in North Korea for work.

The North Korean government accused Bae of setting up bases in China for the purpose of "toppling" the North Korean government, encouraging North Korean citizens to bring down the government and conducting a "malignant smear campaign."

Although it is appropriate to emphasize with Mr. Bae's illnesses and plight, being a naturalized US citizen from his native South Korea, Bae should have realized that visiting North Korea even once was fraught with incredible personal risks, particularly given his having been born on the Korean Peninsula.

As is well-known to anyone who has not been living on Mars, countless native-born and naturalized US citizens have been falsely accused of crimes against the DPRK in recent years. 

As a result, many US travelers to North Korea have been arrested and imprisoned under very harsh conditions simply because they failed to fully understand their own ignorance and naiveté in assuming they could travel to the DPRK and not be arrested or detained.