Tags: Korea | Bae | prison plea

American in North Korean Jail: US Must 'Try Harder' for My Release

Thursday, 04 Jul 2013 01:49 PM

By Marti Lotman

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An American held in a North Korean prison is calling on the United States to "try harder" to help him gain amnesty.

Kenneth Bae told the pro-Pyongyang media outlet Choson Sinbo that he hoped to gain amnesty from a sentence of 15 years of hard labor for alleged crimes against the government by Thursday — his father's 70th birthday, Fox News reported.

Bae, 44, of Lynwood, Washington was arrested in the northeastern North Korean region of Rason in April for planning to commit "hostile acts" against the North Korean government and sentenced to a "special prison" where he is serving out his sentence.

"People here are very considerate, so I’m not working too hard, but my health is not in the best condition so there are some difficulties," Bae said in Tuesday's interview with Chosen Sinbo, which was shared with CNN. The interview was likely conducted with North Korean officials present.

Many speculate that Bae's imprisonment is being used as bait by North Korea to win diplomatic concessions from Washington as the country remains at odds with the West for continuing to develop nuclear weapons, despite U.N. sanctions.

The photos and video of Bae "are purely for propaganda purposes," according to Yoo Ho-yeol, a North Korean studies professor at Korea University in Seoul.

North Korea intends to use Bae as leverage to initiate dialogue with the U.S., Yoo says.

The U.S. has previously said that Pyongyang must work toward denuclearization if it wants to improve relations with the west.

Pyongyand denies using Bae as a pawn.

Kim Ji Yong, the paper's bureau chief, said they worked hard to get the interview. "Why the officials decided to grant it, however, is for them to say."

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