US Christian Kenneth Bae Begins 15-Year Sentence in 'Special Prison' in North Korea

Video Emerges of Bae Delivering Sermon on Christian Activity in Oppressive Country

When asked if there were any plans to send an envoy to North Korea to secure Bae's amnesty, the U.S. State Department spokesman responded:

"I'm not aware one way or another. I know that a couple of former presidents had their spokespeople clarifying that they weren't going and – but the bottom line is this is something – you all are aware of the history and how this has been – this has happened in the past with U.S. citizens. But what we're calling on for and we're urging the DPRK authorities to do is to grant him amnesty and to allow for his immediate release, full stop."

When asked if the U.S. views Bae "as a political pawn, as a kind of a hostage," Ventrell was reluctant to "characterize the case this way."

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There was speculation that former President Jimmy Carter, who visited North Korea in 2010 to secure the release of imprisoned American Aijalon Gomes, had been invited to return to the communist country. It was also reported that Carter might have penned a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry encouraging him to hold talks with current dictator Kim Jong-Un.

Carter's press secretary denied claims that the Christian politician had been invited to North Korea or had any intention of visiting.

It remains unclear if Kim Jong-Un's true intentions with imprisoning Bae is to win concessions from the U.S. regarding its unauthorized ongoing nuclear and missile programs, which have resulted in a fresh wave of economic sanctions for the already impoverished country.

Bae, whose ethnic name is Pae Jun Ho, "never had any evil intentions against North Korea, or any other country for that matter," his sister, Terri Chung, told CNN in early May.

Chung revealed that Bae, who lived in China with his wife, had visited the reclusive country on at least five occasions last year and never had any trouble.

"We just pray and ask for leaders of both nations to please, just see him as one man, caught in between," Chung added. "He's a father to three children and we just ask that he be allowed to come home." She also revealed that Bae was allowed to speak with family members over the phone in early April.

Pastor Eugene Cho of Quest Church in Seattle shared with supporters that Bae's sister and mother are members of his congregation. He, too, has asked for prayers for the Bae family, whom he has helped counsel throughout their ordeal. When contacted by The Christian Post for comment in early May about his interaction with Bae's family, Cho declined, citing the sensitivity of the situation.

Bobby Lee, Bae's close friend whom he met over 20 years ago at the University of Oregon, has spoken out on the case in an effort to make sure his friend is not forgotten. Lee, who described Bae as "an average guy" who was concerned about the homeless youth he encountered in North Korea, has launched a Facebook page titled "Free Kenneth Now."

"Kenneth is an Oregon Duck. I met him in 1988 when he was volunteering with disadvantaged students to help them succeed at the university. He loved the Oregon coast and often invited his fellow students over to his place for Korean food. He liked helping people. And now it looks like that got him in trouble," reads a statement from Lee on the Facebook page.

"Today, he is in a cold prison cell in a nation closed off from the world. We need to shine a spotlight into that cell, and make sure Kenneth is not forgotten. Most people have never heard of Kenneth Bae. We need to change that."

Bobby Lee issued a plea for his good friend Kenneth Bae after the latter was imprisoned in North Korea for alleged acts deemed 'hostile' to the state.
Bobby Lee issued a plea for his good friend Kenneth Bae after the latter was imprisoned in North Korea for alleged acts deemed "hostile" to the state. | (Photo:

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