In a newly released video interview, Kenneth Bae, a Christian pastor and Korean-American imprisoned in a North Korean labor camp, pleads for the U.S. government to take up his case and advocate for his freedom.
Bae has been sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean prison camp, where he has been subjected to forced labor since late May. Bae was likely given his sentence due to what was labeled by North Korea as subversive actions toward the Kim Jong-un regime.
Bae pastored and operated a church on the Chinese border town of Rajin (Rason City), where in 2009 he called on his congregation to pray that the walls of North Korea come down. He allegedly led a group of 250 students into North Korea to minister to North Koreans and distributed anti-regime literature, including a National Geographic special on escaping North Korea.
The U.S. has called for the immediate release of Bae, but Pyongyang thus far has refused to release him. Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Google chief executive Eric Schmidt requested Bae’s release during their recent visit to North Korea, but their actions evoked little response. Washington has made it clear that it is unwilling to send high-profile officials to Pyongyang to negotiate with the North Korean government.
While Pyongyang insists that it will not use Bae as a bargaining chip against the U.S., news coverage and this latest interview indicate otherwise.
The Koreas used to be known as the “Jerusalem of the East,” but since the split of the two countries, North Korea has become known for its systematic persecution of Christians. North Korea has state-sanctioned churches, but they arguably serve as a proxy for the communist regime and are run by North Korean officials.
Over the years, defector testimony, satellite images, and on-the-ground reports have confirmed the existence of North Korean labor camps that imprison an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 people. While the United Nations recently agreed to a commission of inquiry into the North Korean human rights crisis, the international community has a greater responsibility than to just investigate human rights abuses.
The human rights crisis in North Korea is severe, and Bae is just one of many victims of the brutal regime. This is yet another example of the North Korean regime’s systematic persecution of Christians and blatant human rights violations.