The deteriorating health of an American Christian missionary being held prisoner in North Korea is prompting new pleas for his release.
Kenneth Bae suffers from diabetes, liver problems and an enlarged heart, and has lost 50 pounds since his arrest in November 2012. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for committing "hostile acts" against the Communist regime, the Wall Street Journal reports,
and now is considered the longest-held U.S. prisoner of the communist regime in recent times.
"He’s considerably weaker," said Bae's sister, Terri Chung. "There’s more urgency than ever to bring him home."
Chung told the BBC
her brother was hospitalized after becoming too weak to work in the forced labor camp.
The 45-year-old Washington state resident is the sixth American jailed in North Korea since 2009. The U.S. has no diplomatic ties with North Korea.
The other prisoners were released before serving out their sentences, often after visits from high-profile Americans.
Former President Bill Clinton's 2009 visit helped secure the release of American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Former President Jimmy Carter visited North Korea in 2010 to help secure the release of a Boston man charged with illegally entering the country.
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who visited North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in March, has criticized President Barack Obama
for failing to secure Bae's release. Rodman has pledged to return this month to meet with Kim, and urge that the missionary be freed.
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