- (Photo: REUTERS/Kyodo)
Christian Missionary Kenneth Bae, who is being held captive in North Korea, "confessed" in a new video that he is guilty of a "serious crime" and said Kim Jong-Un's government does not abuse human rights, a statement that experts are saying was clearly given under duress.
"I would like to plead with the U.S. government, press and my family to stop worsening my situation by making vile rumors against North Korea and releasing materials related to me, which are not based on the facts," Bae said on Monday in Pyongyang in a video, according to China's state-run news agency Xinhua.
"I believe that my problem can be solved by close cooperation and agreement between the American government and the government of this country."
The American citizen, who was arrested in 2012 in North Korea, became in November the longest-serving U.S. detainee there since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
The Christian missionary was arrested in Rajin in November 2012 while leading tours from China into North Korea, supposedly for plots he had made against the government. He was later sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
A North Korean expert working at the state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul said regarding Bae's "confession" that his statements cannot be taken as his own.
"The reason why North Korea had Kenneth Bae make this statement … is that they want Washington to reach out to them," Kim Jin Moo said, according to The Associated Press.
"Bae's comments are an appeal to Washington to actively persuade Pyongyang to release him."
CNN further pointed out that getting prisoners to make false confessions is an often-used tactic in North Korea. As an example, it highlighted the story of Korean War veteran Merrill Newman who in December revealed that he was freed from captivity after being forced to admit guilt.
"Anyone who has read the text of it or who has seen the video of me reading it knows that the words were not mine and were not delivered voluntarily. Anyone who knows me knows that I could not have done the things they had me 'confess' to," the 85-year-old veteran revealed.
Bae's family back in the U.S. has started a campaign calling for his freedom, noting that he has a number of health issues that make his imprisonment very dangerous.
"My heart ached to see my son in a hospital gown, confined to a small room. It suddenly became very real that he was actually a prisoner in North Korea. I held his hand and started to ask the same question over and over, 'How's your condition?' He reassured me his mind was stable and his medical condition was improving," Myunghee Bae, Kenneth's mother, wrote in a special to The Seattle Times in November.
North Korea's extensive human rights abuses have also been well documented. Prisoners face torture, forced labor and possible execution. Christians in particular face extreme persecution in the Pacific nation, where practicing their faith is illegal. North Korea has been named the worst country for Christians for 12 consecutive years by persecution watchdog group Open Doors, which estimates that there are 50,000 to 70,000 Christians imprisoned in labor camps.