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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

North Korea Sentences U.S. Citizen To 15 Years Hard Labor

Matt Pressberg |
May 1, 2013 | 9:15 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

Kenneth Bae was sentenced to hard labor in North Korea. (Shinsuke JJ Ikegame/Flickr)
Kenneth Bae was sentenced to hard labor in North Korea. (Shinsuke JJ Ikegame/Flickr)
North Korea’s state news service said Thursday (Wednesday evening in the U.S.) that it has sentenced an American man to 15 years hard labor for “hostile acts” against the government.

According to Agence France-Presse, Kenneth Bae was convicted of unspecified offenses against the ruling regime of Kim Jong-Un. Bae was arrested in November entering the city of Rason.

State-run Korean Central News Agency reported Bae has confessed to his crimes.

The decision to send an American citizen to one of North Korea’s notorious prison camps is yet another provocative move by the new leader of the increasingly isolated state, who took over after the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, in late 2011.

Whereas former Americans held captive by North Korea prompted high-profile rescue missions, most notably former president Bill Clinton’s trip to retrieve two broadcast journalists in 2009, the current environment is less conducive to such a gesture, as one expert told AFP:

“‘The North will surely try to take advantage of Kenneth Bae as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the U.S.,’ said Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

‘But the whole atmosphere is quite different from when similar hostage disputes erupted in the past. The diplomatic and military situation is so tense that the US is unlikely to dramatically change its stance or try to open dialogue with the North just to save this guy,’ he said.”

Bae had entered North Korea on a valid visa and is said to be a tour operator. A South Korean activist told AFP that he believes Bae was arrested for photographing malnourished children.

The U.S. has urged North Korea to release Bae for humanitarian reasons.

Read more of Neon Tommy’s coverage of North Korea here.

Reach Executive Producer Matt Pressberg here.



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