The mother of Kenneth Bae, an imprisoned U.S. Christian sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government, is in Pyongyang to visit her son, whose health is failing and who has lost a lot of weight.
"I'm very excited but at the same I am also anxious. I don't know what to expect when I meet my son," says Bae's mother, Myunghee of Lynnwood, Wash., in a video statement.
Myunghee arrived Pyongyang last Thursday, and plans to stay there for five days. In the video, she expresses gratitude for the chance to visit her son.
"As a mother, I worry endlessly about his health and I wanna see him and comfort him and hold him in person," she adds. "I miss him so much..."
The oppressive communist country has accused Bae, a father of three who worked as a tour guide, of "serious crimes" including setting up bases in China with the aim of bringing down the government. His sister, Terri Chung, has said his Christian faith might have been the real reason he was targeted by officials.
"His personal convictions and his beliefs as a Christian may have been deemed as, I don't know, perhaps hostile acts, but all I know is that he only had the best of intentions to help the people," Chung said earlier. "Maybe he was a little bit overzealous, I'm not sure… All I know is my brother is a good man. He has a huge heart to help people in the nation of North Korea."
Chung said Bae is being forced to work in the fields for eight hours each day six days a week, and she does not know how long he will last. He has diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver and a back problem.
Myunghee recalls that her son was hospitalized two months ago because of failing health. "It has been agonizing 11 months," she says. "My heart was broken into pieces when his prison interview released on July 3rd because his appearance was very shocking. He looked so different, and he's lost so much weight. I could not believe that the prisoner was my son. He is usually a very cheerful person..."
"I was hoping that my problem would be worked out by end of June. So my hope is that North Korea will forgive, and the U.S. will try harder to get me out speedily. I'm asking for their help," Bae said in the video, which was shared by CNN.
Bae's family in the U.S. has pleaded for his release. Many groups, including the Obama administration, have called for his release with no success.
Bae was initially arrested on Nov. 3, 2012, while leading a tour in North Korea's Rason City. It was revealed that in addition to visiting orphans during his visits to the North through his tour company, Bae apparently took part in evangelism activities. He shared during a 2009 sermon at a U.S. church that he hoped through prayer and worship to bring down North Korea's walls, in a project he called "Operation Jericho." The charges were detailed online by the state-led Korean Central News Agency.
Bae was sentenced around the time when U.S.-North Korea relations were deteriorating over Pyongyang's nuclear program.
Myunghee is thankful to those who are praying for her son, and is seeking more prayers. "Thank you for the prayers and support for my son Kenneth Bae," she says. "Please keep praying for us. Thank you."